Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
on Oct 18, 2023
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You don’t need basil for this sun-dried tomato pesto recipe. It’s a pesto for every season made with one of the best pantry ingredients, jarred sun-dried tomatoes. Made in 5 minutes, this quick and easy sauce is full of flavor and color. You can stir it into pasta, slather it on pizza or whisk it into eggs or vinaigrette.
If you’re looking for classic basil pesto, you can find my guide on how to make pesto.
Table of Contents
Why You’ll Love This Tomato Pesto Recipe
It’s a pesto that works no matter the season. Since jarred sun-dried tomatoes are the base of this variation, it doesn’t have to be summer like it does when you make traditional pesto with fresh basil leaves.
This homemade pesto is a pantry recipe. Sun-dried tomatoes are one of those ingredients that has tons of flavor without any work other than chopping. I always keep a jar in my kitchen because there are so many things you can do with them when you need a quick meal. I make a version of this sun dried tomato pasta almost every week.
This is a no-cook tomato sauce that’s ready in 5 minutes. The food processor does all the heavy-lifting chopping the ingredients. And yes, technically sun-dried tomatoes are cooked, but you don’t have to so that work because they already come that way.
What is Pesto?
The basil version of Italian sauce comes from Genoa. The verb pestare means to crush, so that’s why it’s called pesto. Traditionally it’s made with fresh basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper. It can be made by hand with a mortar and pestle or with a food processor or blender.
Pesto rosso or red pesto hails from Sicily and is made with sun-dried tomatoes. It can include roasted red peppers too. You will need a food processor to chop the tomatoes with the rest of the ingredients rather than making it by hand. This recipe is all about speed and convenience.
This is what you need:
- Sun-dried tomatoes: You can find them with the antipasti in the Italian food section at the grocery, or they are often in tubs in the olive bar. Buy the ones that are hydrated and in oil and not the tomatoes that are dry-packed. You can also substitute with marinated roasted tomatoes.
- Garlic: The recipe calls for 2 garlic cloves.
- Walnuts are often my go-to nut for pesto because they are less expensive than pine nuts, but either would be fine. Almonds are another good choice.
- Parmesan is a hard cow’s milk cheese. You can use a mix of Pecorino Romano, which is a hard sheep’s milk cheese, if you want.
- Olive oil: For the best flavor, go with extra-virgin olive oil.
- Salt & pepper are the only seasonings that you need.
How To Make Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
- Put the tomatoes, garlic, walnuts, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor.
- Process the ingredients until they are finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly pour the olive oil through the feeder tube until the pesto is pureed and combined. If you do this with a blender, drizzle the oil through the cap in the lid.
How To Use Red Pesto
Sun-dried tomato pesto turns out thicker and more spreadable than traditional basil pesto, but you can thin it out as needed by adding more olive oil. Here are some ideas for enjoying this pesto:
- Pesto pasta is probably what first comes to mind. Cook your noodles until al dente in salted boiling water. Before draining them, scoop out a little of the cooking water from the pot, which has starch that will help the pesto coat the pasta. In a bowl, stir the the pasta, pesto and some of the reserved water. You can start with 2 tablespoons depending on the amount of noodles. Finish with Parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, flaky sea salt and black pepper.
- Pizza with tomato pesto is a fantastic substitute for typical tomato sauce. If you don’t want to use it on the entire crust, you can finish your pizza with small dollops of pesto after it has finished baking.
- Eggs, whether scrambled, in a frittata or quiche, you can whisk a spoonful of pesto into the eggs before you cook them.
- Spreading pesto onto crusty bread is an instant flavor boost to a sandwich or toast. You can also stir the pesto into cream cheese for a tasty bagel spread. Also, you can spread it on proteins as a condiment after they have finished cooking. That includes roasted chicken and salmon.
- Salad dressings, specially vinaigrettes, are easy to turn into sun-dried tomato vinaigrette.
How To Store Pesto
You can keep your pesto in the fridge up to 2 weeks in an airtight container or jar. Because the oil will likely harden in the cold temperature of the refrigerator, let it sit out at room temperature for 15 minutes to turn to liquid again.
You can freeze pesto if you want to store it longer. Just put it in an airtight container, and you can keep it up to 3-4 months. Thaw the pesto at room temperature. Then it will stay good in the fridge after that for about 2 weeks.
I like to spoon it into ice cube trays because then you don’t have to thaw an entire batch at once and can use it per recipe. Once they are frozen in the tray, you can put all the cubes in a single container.
Use a fork to take the sun-dried tomatoes out of the jar. That makes it easy to get them out of the oil.
Toast the walnuts in advance. When you toast nuts, it brings out their flavor. You can do this on a sheet pan in a 350-degree F oven for about 5 minutes.
You can add more olive oil to thin the pesto. But wait to do this until you know how you are planning to use it. You may want it to have a thicker, more spreadable consistency. With pasta, you can do this with the starchy cooking water from the pot.
Yes, you can leave the nuts out. You may want to reduce the olive oil and start with 1/3 cup and then add more as needed. The overall pesto yield will be less.
You can leave out the Parmesan and substitute with 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast. Then the recipe will be vegan and dairy-free.
If you have a batch of roasted tomatoes, you can turn them into pesto. I would recommend starting with 1/3 cup olive oil and then adding more as needed. That’s because homemade roasted tomatoes tend to be softer and juicier than jarred sun-dried tomatoes.
If you can’t imagine pesto without the taste of basil, you can add about 1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves with the rest of ingredients.
This pesto is already bright and has nice acidity from the sun-dried tomatoes. You can add the juice of half a lemon for something citrusy.
More Pesto Recipes Without Basil
Roasted Broccoli Pesto
Sweet Corn Pesto Pasta
Roasted Cauliflower Spinach Pesto Pasta
Grilled Corn and Avocado with Cilantro Pesto
Tomato Kale Pesto Frittata
Roasted Tomato Pesto Pasta Salad
Kale Arugula Vegan Pesto
Parsley Walnut Pesto
Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
- 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, oil drained
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan (about 1/2 ounce)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Combine the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, walnuts, Parmesan, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender.
- Process the ingredients until they are finely chopped.
- With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil through the feeder tube until the pesto is pureed and combined.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.