Learn how six basic pantry ingredients transform into an easy sauce that elevates any dish with this easy pesto rosso (red pesto). This back-pocket recipe is packed with flavor from sun dried tomatoes, is incredibly versatile, super easy to make, and deliciously addictive!
About Pesto Rosso
In my years of cooking, I’ve learned that a good sauce can completely transform a meal!
And sauces do not need to be complicated in order to be good.
I have a few sauces I always fall back on for easy meals and ways to elevate simple dishes, such as my 3-ingredient pesto vinaigrette, cilantro lime sauce, 3-minute yogurt tahini sauce, and easy enchilada sauce.
Pesto sauces are great to have on hand because they’re super flavorful and incredibly versatile, which is why I created pesto rosso.
Pesto rosso, also known as red pesto, is a delightful Sicilian sauce made with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, almonds, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese.
What I love about pesto rosso is that it uses shelf-stable ingredients like sun dried tomatoes that I usually have on hand – meaning a perfect last minute meal idea or sauce to elevate any dish.
Visual Guide: How to Make Pesto Rosso
This sauce uses simple, inexpensive ingredients to create a delicious accompaniment to any meal, and it’s so easy to make.
Simply throw the tomatoes, almonds, salt, and garlic into a blender or food processor and pulse, then drizzle in the olive oil, and eventually add in the parmesan cheese.
In no time, you will have a versatile and delicious pesto!
Sun dried tomatoes offer a rich tomato flavor and can be found either dried or packed in olive oil.
For this recipe, I prefer sun dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, however you can use dried but you will need to rehydrate them (see tip below) and you may need to add a couple more tablespoons of olive oil to the blender.
Tip: How to Rehydrate Sun Dried Tomatoes
To rehydrate dried sun dried tomatoes, soak in warm water for about 10 minutes. Drain and discard soaking liquid when finished.
Traditional sun dried tomato pesto rosso is made with almonds, but you can use any nut you have on hand or prefer.
I love the taste of less expensive and easier to find nuts like almonds, but you can use pine nuts, cashews, walnuts, or pecans.
For a nut-free version, use sunflower or pumpkin seeds.
While fresh herbs are not a required ingredient in this recipe, they do add a beautiful flavor.
I tested a variety of herbs and found that 1 cup of basil or ¼ cup of rosemary worked really well.
If you want to make a spicy pesto rosso, add some red pepper flakes to the mixture.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
Sun dried tomatoes: I prefer tomatoes packed in olive oil, however you can use dried sun dried tomatoes that have been rehydrated.
Almonds: You can use any nut you have on hand or prefer. Pine nuts, cashews, or walnuts work. Use sunflower or pumpkin seeds for a nut-free version.
Garlic: I love the flavor of fresh garlic in this recipe, especially given that we’re using so few ingredients.
Kosher salt: Look for kosher salt with the regular iodized salt at the grocery store (it has a subtler flavor). Use less iodized salt if that’s what you have on hand.
Extra virgin olive oil: I highly recommend using extra virgin olive oil since the olive oil is a pronounced flavor in this recipe.
Parmesan: Try to use freshly grated parmesan if you can. Use a dairy free parmesan for a dairy free version.
Make it Gluten Free + Dairy Free
This recipe is naturally gluten free. For a dairy free version, use dairy free parmesan cheese.
How to Serve Pesto Rosso
The best thing about this pesto is that it’s incredibly versatile.
Elevate simple baked chicken by using pesto rosso as a sauce, or add on top of any white fish.
One of my favorite ways to use pesto rosso is spread on grilled or toasted bread, as a dip for focaccia, or as a sandwich spread.
And, of course, pesto rosso is excellent on any type of pasta. I share how I prepare mine in this red pesto pasta recipe.
How to Store & Freeze
Pesto rosso is a great make-ahead sauce so you always have a good sauce on hand.
It keeps well in the fridge for up to a week, in a sealed container.
This recipe also freezes well!
Freeze pesto in ice cube trays and then store pesto cubes in freezer bags in the freezer for up to 6 months.
This Recipe is…
Follow my step-by-step video:
- 1 cup (about 1 [8.5 oz] jar) sun dried tomatoes in olive oil
- ½ cup sliced almonds
- 2 garlic cloves
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Optional Add Ins
- ¼-1 cup fresh herbs such as basil, rosemary, or oregano
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Add the sun dried tomatoes (along with the olive oil it’s packed with), almonds, garlic, and salt to a food processor.
- Pulse until a coarse paste forms.
- Continuing pulsing while slowly drizzling in the olive oil until the oil is incorporated.
- Add the parmesan cheese and pulse until just combined. Taste and adjust seasoning to taste.
- If adding fresh herbs and red pepper flakes, add in step one.