Red Pesto Pasta (Quick & Easy!)
Using basic pantry ingredients, this red pesto pasta comes together in just 20 minutes, and is the perfect time-saving weeknight vegetarian dinner everyone will love. Quick, easy, and oh-so delicious, plus, I’m using a simple technique to make it extra creamy, no cream involved!
About Red Pesto Pasta
If you’re looking for a quick and easy dinner idea that comes together in 20 minutes and uses pantry ingredients, then this is the recipe for you.
I regularly rely on my easy marinara sauce and creamy tomato sauce to pull together a last minute dinner and I’m excited to add this red pesto pasta to the list of simple sauces that elevates and meal from ordinary to extraordinary.
This particular sun dried tomato pasta features one of my other favorite back-pocket sauces – pesto rosso.
Pesto rosso can be used to elevate any meal, but its rich flavor is especially delicious on your favorite pasta.
I know you can buy pre-made red pesto, so definitely sub that in if you need a shortcut, but nothing beats the fresh flavor of homemade sun dried tomato pesto, and honestly this recipe is so simple to put together!
Visual Guide: How to Make Red Pesto Pasta
This simple red pesto pasta recipe comes together so quickly, and results in a rich, creamy flavor that tastes like you’ve been cooking all day (but you haven’t).
Making the pesto while the pasta cooks saves time and allows this meal to come together in 20 minutes or less.
To make this pasta creamy without adding cream, I use my own little trick that works every time.
Simply remove some of the starchy pasta water before draining the cooked pasta, and add the reserved pasta water, pesto, and drained pasta back into the pot.
Turn the heat to low and toss pasta, water, and sauce to get it coated, and it will get slightly creamier just from the starchy cooking liquid.
Feel free to adjust how saucy you like your pasta by adding more or less pesto until you get to the consistency you like.
If you have any remaining pesto, serve on top of the pasta, save for another use, or freeze for a future meal.
Make It Gluten Free + Dairy Free
To make this recipe, use your favorite gluten free pasta. For a dairy free version, use dairy free parmesan cheese.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
Pasta: Any pasta will work in this recipe. Use gluten free pasta for a gluten free version.
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: Any neutral oil will work in this recipe, such as avocado oil, vegetable oil or canola.
Parmesan: Try to use freshly grated parmesan if you can. Use a dairy free parmesan for a dairy free version.
Bump Up the Protein
This vegetarian pasta dinner is perfect on its own, but if you want to bump up the protein even more, stir in a can of drained and rinsed white beans, 2 cans of drained tuna, or shredded cooked chicken at the end to warm through.
What to Serve with Red Pesto Pasta
Red pesto pasta is an excellent vegetarian meal on its own, but it would also be delicious with a big salad set out on the table for sharing.
You can also add cooked protein to the pasta if you would like, such as grilled chicken or cooked shrimp.
Or add cooked vegetables such as grilled eggplant or zucchini, spinach, or sauteed bell peppers for added texture and flavor.
How to Store & Freeze
Red pepper pasta keeps well in the fridge for up to 3-4 days, in a sealed container. To reheat, add a splash of water, broth, or milk to add some more liquid.
This Recipe is…
Follow my step-by-step video:
Red Pesto Pasta
- 1 pound pasta of choice
- 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 Serving Suggestions
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Red pepper flakes
- Fresh basil
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a strong boil. Add the pasta and stir to avoid sticking. Just before draining the pasta carefully remove ½ cup of the pasta water, and set aside. Drain the pasta (do not rinse) and add back to the pot it was cooked in.
- While the pasta is cooking, 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.
- Continue pulsing while slowly drizzling in the olive oil until well incorporated.
- Add the parmesan cheese and pulse until just combined. Taste and adjust seasoning to taste.
- Add half of the red pesto to the cooked pasta, along with the reserved pasta water. Turn the pot to low and toss the pasta with the cooking water and pesto until it’s coated and slightly creamy. Add additional red pesto until the pasta is coated with desired amount, then serve the remaining pesto on top of the tossed pasta or reserve for another use.
- Serve the red pesto pasta with freshly grated parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, and fresh basil, if desired.