This scrumptious creamy sun dried tomato pesto will be fabulous with your pasta, it tastes and smells amazing and will boost your mood on busy nights.
The best part? It’s ready in minutes, and it’s darn good!
I make this simple recipe my mum’s way, who was originally from Sicily, in Southern Italy.
Rather than follow the classic version of pesto made with pine nuts, parmesan, and plenty of olive oil, she simply used to whizz up jarred sun dried tomatoes with fresh ricotta, basil, and garlic.
And I can tell you that creamy ricotta and the intensely-flavored sun dried tomatoes are a marriage made in heaven.
Also, her Sicilian variation of this nut-free “red pesto” (known as “pesto rosso”), calls for a small amount of olive oil just to combine all the ingredients. Not much, since this pesto is stirred and emulsified into the pasta pot with some of the starchy pasta-cooking water. Yes, this step is a must for any good pasta dish and it works like magic.
The result? A bowl of creamy and flavorsome pasta, rich but not oily, and utterly delicious!
WHAT IS THIS “RED PESTO” MADE OF?
- Sun dried tomatoes
- Parmesan (optional)
- Olive oil
- Salt & pepper
HOW TO MAKE SUN DRIED TOMATO PESTO?
It couldn’t be easier…
- Blend all the ingredients in a food processor
(You want a pesto-like texture, not a puree)
- Adjust the seasoning according to your taste
- Yes, it looks delish…
HOW TO MAKE PASTA WITH SUN DRIED TOMATO PESTO?
- Cook your pasta in plenty of salty boiling water
- Drain pasta while is still “al dente”
- Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water
- Return the pasta to the pot and stir in your pesto
- Stir in starchy pasta-cooking water, toss to evenly coat
- Serve with extra parmesan cheese, and enjoy!
EASY, HEALTHY, BUDGET-FRIENDLY:
I love sharing on this blog easy recipes that bring you to the table healthy homemade meals saving you time and money. This sun dried tomato pesto recipe is no exception.
Sun dried tomatoes are amazing, packed with flavor, and they’re rich in many nutrients too. Plus, they’re fairly cheap, which means that this delish pesto recipe costs less than $2.20, and it’s enough for 3 servings of pasta. Plus, it’s fresh, homemade, simple and tastes a million times better than the kind you buy in the store.
ARE SUN DRIED TOMATOES GOOD FOR YOU?
YES, they have an excellent source of several nutrients like vitamins and minerals, especially potassium, magnesium, and iron. Plus, one 1 cup of sun dried tomatoes provides at least 20 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C and is also packed with vitamin A and a powerful antioxidant called Lycopene.
IS PASTA HEALTHY?
YES. Pasta is definitely part of a healthy diet, as long as it’s eaten in moderation.
And If you switch to whole grain pasta you’ll get more natural fiber and micronutrients than white pasta.
Fiber is an important part of your diet, as it prevents constipation and reduces appetite. Plus, research shows that eating three servings of whole-grain food per day helps you to live longer. Ehm, WHY NOT? : )
Doesn’t it look delicious? 😍
RECIPE NOTES & QUESTIONS
HOW TO USE SUN DRIED TOMATO PESTO?
This simple nut-free red pesto is a super versatile recipe that goes just with about everything, which means you can enjoy it not only with pasta dishes, but also spread on sandwiches or crunchy bruschetta, served with roasted vegetables, stirred into risotto or chicken stews.
Plus, if you choose short shape pasta like penne or fusilli, you can make a delicious sundried tomato pesto pasta salad perfect for a picnic or as a meal prep idea. Yes, it’s super versatile.
WHAT PASTA GOES WITH PESTO?
Choosing the right pasta shape to suit the nature of your sauce makes a big difference.
Pasta with sundried tomato pesto tastes utterly delicious, however, some pasta shapes work better than others.
I have a serious thing for spaghetti and bucatini, they’re just perfect for creamy sauces and pesto. In this recipe, I’ve used bucatini pasta, which is basically a thicker version of spaghetti with a hole all the way through, perfect for the creamy pesto to cling to! Yes, I love it : )
However, you can use any short, large or long pasta shapes that work well to capture the pesto sauce. Penne, fusilli, conchiglie work fine, but mini pasta shapes like orzo or even elbow macaroni don’t work well in the recipe.
Last but not least, when you chose pasta, have a proper look at the label and go for durum wheat semolina pasta. Pasta brand matters, and although premium quality pasta is a bit more expensive than basic pasta, it’s resilient, it has a more robust texture and holds the sauce beautifully.
HOW LONG DOES SUN DRIED TOMATO PESTO LAST?
Any leftover pesto can be stored in a jar can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. However, since this red pesto recipe calls for fresh ricotta cheese, it doesn’t last more than 3 days.
Can you swap cream cheese for ricotta? Yes, I did it a few times and it worked fine (but I didn’t tell my mum, of course!). Also, you can skip basil if you don’t have this delicious fresh herb on hand.
Looking for more pasta recipes ready in a flash? You might have a look at these delicious:
- 10-minute cream cheese pasta
- 15-minute garlic mushroom spaghetti
- 10-minute lemon ricotta pasta with spinach
If you try this unusual sundried tomato pesto recipe, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it or tag a photo #theclevermeal on Instagram.
I would love to hear from you!
Sun dried tomato pesto pasta (red pesto)
- 1/2 cup (90 grams) jarred sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil
- 1/2 cup (120 grams) ricotta, or cream cheese*
- 1/2 cup (10 grams) basil leaves
- 1/4 cup (25 grams) parmesan cheese, freshly grated (optional)
- 2 Tbsp (30ml) Olive oil*
- 1 garlic clove
- salt & pepper, to taste
- 1/2 lb (225 grams) Pasta, any type (spaghetti, fusilli, penne...)
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) pasta water, reserved to thin out the pesto
- 1 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil, for drizzling (optional)
- freshly grated parmesan cheese, to serve
- freshly ground black pepper, to serve (optional)
- Add sun dried tomatoes, ricotta, olive oil, basil, garlic, and parmesan cheese to a food processor and blend into a pesto-like consistency (coarse rather than a puree).
- Taste and adjust the seasoning according to your taste.
- In a large pot of boiling water, add salt and then add pasta. Cook according to package instructions and drain when it's al dente.
- When it's time to drain pasta, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
- Drain pasta, return it to the pot, stir in pesto and half of the reserved cooking water
- Toss to coat over medium heat just until well combined, adding the rest of the cooking water to thin out, just as much as needed to get a nice consistency.
- Season with extra olive oil and black pepper, if you like.
- Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese and shredded basil leaves. Enjoy!
- Sun dried tomatoes: I prefer oil-packed sun dried tomatoes for this recipe, they're soft and I use them straight from the jar. I used to buy them from TJ's when I lived in the States.
- Olive oil: feel free to use the flavorful sun dried tomato olive oil from the jar, just make sure the flavorings will work in the recipe (garlic and herbs are fine).
- Substitutions: you can swap cream cheese for ricotta and dry sun dried tomatoes (the ones without oil) for the jarred sun dried tomatoes.
- How to use "dry" sun dried tomatoes? These ones don’t have as much moisture as the oil-packed counterpart, so you have to hydrate them in water first to plump them up. Just let them soak in warm water for thirty minutes until soft, then drain and pat dry.
NOTE: Nutritional values are estimates only.