What Is Red Pesto And How To Use It In Pasta Recipes

This kind of pesto is more intense in flavor than the green.

When you hear the word "pesto" you are probably imagining a green paste made of basil leaves, garlic, nuts, Parmesan cheese, and lots of olive oil. It's super easy to make and is loaded with flavor from the pungent aroma and taste of the basil herb. 

Pesto is commonly seen tossed with pasta for a simple yet flavorful sauce. Did you know there's another kind of pesto, a red pesto? It's an even more intensely flavorful paste that looks like the basil pesto you're familiar with but with a big visual difference: it's red. 

It's red because it doesn't use basil leaves as the main ingredient. Instead, it is similar to tomato paste and that's exactly what it is mostly made of. However, the tomatoes aren't just your regular tomatoes. The tomatoes are sun-dried tomatoes

There are two kinds of pesto in the supermarket: green pesto made from basil leaves and red pesto made from sun-dried tomatoes.
Photo by Shutterstock

Sun-dried tomatoes are exactly as stated: tomatoes left out under the hot sun to shrivel up and dry. The resulting tomatoes are more intensely concentrated than your usual tomatoes or even tomato paste. It's got more flavor, not just from being dried up but also because it's been exposed to the sun. The hot sun "cooks" the tomatoes and leaves the dried tomatoes with a more complex taste that's tart with an underlying sweet and savory taste at the same time. Tomato paste is usually tart with an underlying minerally taste, especially if you do not cook it long enough. 

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You can actually buy red pesto or tomato pesto in supermarkets! Just look for the red bottled version of the pesto in the same area where you normally would find the green pesto. If you're curious how to make red pesto, here is a simple recipe:  

  1. 1 Coarsely chop sun-dried tomatoes small. Place this into a pestle and mortar with basil leaves, garlic, and pine nuts. (You can also use cashews, walnuts, or even plain pili nuts.) Grind to a coarse paste.
  2. 2. Gradually stir in grated Parmesan cheese and olive oil into the mixture until the paste is loose and spreadable. Add and adjust salt and pepper, to taste. (Add red pepper flakes or chopped roasted red pepper for added flavor!) Add water by the teaspoon if the pesto paste becomes too thick.
  3. 3. Use as the recipe instructs or store in a jar, refrigerated.   

It's actually very easy to use red pesto in pasta recipes! The trick is knowing how to add it in and just like pesto, all it needs is some heating up for its flavors to burst and become one with the sauce you're making. Here are ways on how to use it in recipes:

  1. 1. Saute it with the aromatics when making a tomato pasta sauce and other sauces.
  2. 2. Use it instead of tomato paste to develop a more complex and delicious flavor in stews, soups, and braises. 
  3. 3. Stir it into dips, sauces, and other paste-like mixtures such as hummus or cream cheese. 
  4. 4. Spread it thinly onto crackers, sliced vegetables, or the dough of bread

Try it the next time you cook some pasta! Discover the delicious way it can enhance your tomato pasta sauces or simply amplify a simple pasta dish:


1 Angel Hair Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomato

Keep it simple! Heat it up with a few other ingredients such as basil and toss it in with your choice of pasta.  

Photo by Miguel Nacianceno

2 Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta with Aligue

Take the fishy edge off aligue or crab fat sauce with the fresh yet intensely flavored red pesto. The pesto is a great counter flavor and complements seafood. 


Photo by Patrick Martires

3 Mackerel and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Recipe

If you can get your hands on some quality sun-dried tomatoes preserved in oil, you can totally make this recipe! Even if you didn't and only had the red pesto, you can still make this handy canned food recipe anytime you get hungry for pasta. 


Photo by Miguel Nacianceno | Styling by Rachelle Santos

4 Spiced Shrimp, Chorizo, and Sun-dried Tomato Pasta

Treat yourself to this delicious plate of pasta. It not only has chorizo but it also contains spiced up shrimp, too. Swap out the chunks of sun-dried tomatoes and use the red pesto instead for more flavored pasta noodles. 


Photo by Rico Jose

5 Carbonara with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Basil Recipe

Creamy tomato pasta is definitely possible! This pasta recipe becomes the ultimate kind of carbonara sauce when you stir in some red pesto into the mix, not just add in sliced sun-dried tomatoes. 

Easy and simple pasta recipes can be made more delicious with just one ingredient! Pesto, whether it's the red kind or the green kind that you prefer, can be that essential ingredient that can take your pasta dish from humdrum to "Oh yum!"  



Thinking about what to cook next? Join our Facebook group, Yummy Pinoy Cooking Club, to get more recipe ideas, share your own dishes, and find out what the rest of the community are making and eating!

Got your own version of the classic dishes? Pa-share naman! Get your recipe published on Yummy.ph by submitting your recipe here.

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