Red Pesto Pasta is made with pantry ingredients and comes together in just 20 minutes. Add veggies or your protein of choice, and this easy weeknight pasta will become a family favorite.
Why You'll Love this Red Pesto Pasta
This may be the easiest and most delicious homemade pasta recipe in my arsenal. I know we are all familiar with classic green pesto, but have you ever heard of RED PESTO?
As much as I love green pesto (especially in this Pesto Tortellini Salad), red pesto offers even more complexity. While green pesto tends to taste very earthy, red pesto is incredibly bright with rich notes of umami.
What gives red pesto its bright hue is a mix of sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers.
It's delicious on its own, or paired with just about any protein: grilled chicken, shrimp, steak, or meatballs.
You can also enjoy red pesto with roasted vegetables, potatoes, rice, or eggs.
While there are many variations of red pesto, this one leans heavily on pantry items. And luckily, there are many substitutions if you don't have a certain ingredient on hand. Here's what you need:
- Roasted Red Peppers: Feel free to roast your own or use jarred (I love Delallo brand). I personally prefer the latter for convenience.
- Sun-Dried Tomatoes: I prefer the ones packed in oil, as opposed to vacuum-sealed. However if you only have the latter on hand, just soak them in extra-virgin olive oil for 10 minutes before adding to the food processor.
- Fresh Basil: An absolute must in any pesto, if you ask me!
- Fresh Garlic: Another essential in pesto, however feel free to use garlic powder if that's all you have.
- Parmesan Cheese: A big umami booster here. Oh, and make sure to grate extra for sprinkling over top, too. (Note: if making vegan or dairy-free, you can use nutritional yeast instead.)
- Pine Nuts: Small yet mighty in terms of adding richness to the pesto. Walnuts work here, too!
- Green Olives: Perhaps a wildcard ingredient in pesto, however I love the briny bite olives add. In terms of type, Castelvetrano olives are my absolute favorite. They're buttery and smooth with a firm, meaty texture. Though really, any green olive will do the job.
The beauty of this sauce is that it all comes together in the food processor. No slicing or dicing necessary! Here's how it's done:
Step 1: Combine all pesto ingredients in a food processor. This includes the red pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, olives, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
Step 2: Blend until smooth. While blending, gradually stream in the olive oil until the mixture is cohesive.
Step 3: Cook pasta until al dente. Right before draining the pasta, reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water. This is liquid GOLD in terms of elevating the sauce and making it cling to the noodles.
Step 4: Add pesto to pasta. Gradually stream in reserved pasta water while mixing the pesto into the pasta. You may need anywhere from ½ to 1 full cup of pasta water.
How to Use Red Pesto:
There are so many delicious ways to enjoy red pesto. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Pasta. Toss with your favorite pasta shape (or zucchini noodles for a lower carb option).
- Pizza. This red pesto is absolutely delicious spread on pizza dough. I like to top mine with mozzarella, sausage, mushrooms, and spinach.
- Sandwiches. Instantly elevate your sandwiches with a swipe of red pesto in lieu of other classic condiments.
- Burgers. It's especially delicious on these Portobello Burgers!
- Meat. Red pesto is delicious on anything from grilled chicken or steak to Shrimp Skewers.
- Vegetables: Add a dollop of red pesto to Sautéed Broccoli or a Roasted Whole Cauliflower to instantly elevate their flavor.
Red pesto is brimming with essential vitamins and antioxidants. One, in particular, is lycopene which is a powerful carotenoid that protects against cell damage.
Another is vitamin C, which has a slew of health benefits, including bolstering the immune system, assisting in collagen production, and wound healing.
This pesto is also rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats from the olives, olive oil, and nuts. These fats helps make the pesto extra satiating.
Red pesto is delicious tossed with pasta, however it also makes a great sauce for grilled meat, roasted vegetables, and potatoes.
You can even enjoy it for breakfast served in a breakfast sandwich or over an omelet.
Traditional green pesto includes lots of fresh basil, along with Parmesan, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil. Red pesto, on the other hand, is flavored with sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers.
- To Store: Place pesto in the refrigerator in a small storage container for up to 1 week. If your leftover pesto loses any flavor, you can perk it back up with a little bit of fresh lemon juice.
- To Freeze: Freeze pesto in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the fridge before using. You can also freeze small portions in an ice cube tray; be sure it’s in an airtight freezer bag.
More 30 Minute Pasta Recipes to Try:
Red Pesto Pasta
- Food processor
- Large Soup Pot or Dutch Oven
- 1 lb. dry pasta of choice
- 1 cup roasted red peppers (from a jar of whole roasted red peppers)
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- ⅓ cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
- ¼ cup pitted green olives
- 3 Tbsp. pine nuts (sub chopped walnuts)
- 3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese (sub nutritional yeast if making vegan)
- 2 garlic cloves (sub 1 tsp. garlic powder)
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Optional: Sauteed mushrooms, spinach, and/or protein of choice for serving (shrimp, grilled chicken, meatballs, etc.)
- Cook pasta in salted water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water prior to draining.
- While pasta cooks, combine roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, green olives, pine nuts, Parmesan, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Blend until smooth while gradually streaming in olive oil.
- Drain pasta and return to pot. Add pesto and ½ cup reserved pasta water; stir continuously until pesto begins clinging to noodles. Add more pasta water as needed to achieve desired consistency.
- Garnish pasta with additional Parmesan cheese and basil, and serve with sauteed veggies or protein of choice, if desired.
- STORE: Place in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- OTHER USES: This red pesto is also delicious over grilled meat or veggies, roasted potatoes, eggs or omelets, burgers, sandwiches, and pizza!