Red Pesto Pasta is made with pantry staples and comes together in just 20 minutes. Add veggies or your protein of choice, and this easy weeknight pasta will become a family favorite.
20 Minute Red Pesto Pasta
This may be the easiest and most delicious homemade pasta recipe in my current arsenal. I know we are all familiar with classic green pesto, but have you ever heard of RED PESTO? Mind blowing, I know.
In my opinion, red pesto offers way more complexity and oomph than green. I find most green pestos to just taste very earthy with garlicky undertones. Red pesto, however, is incredibly bright with rich notes of umami. It’s delicious on its own, or paired with just about any protein: grilled chicken, shrimp, steak, or meatballs.
What is Red Pesto Made of?
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.
How to Make Red Pesto:
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:
Combine All Ingredients in the Food Processor
This includes the roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, olives, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
Blend until Smooth
While blending, gradually stream in the olive oil until the mixture is cohesive.
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.
Stir Pesto into Pasta
Gradually stream in reserved pasta water while mixing the pesto into the pasta. You may need anywhere from 1/2 to 1 full cup of pasta water. You’ll notice the pesto start clinging to the noodles as you continue stirring it in.
Add Garnishes of Choice
I suggest more Parmesan cheese and fresh basil at minimum. You can also add extra pine nuts for a crunchy finish.
Is Red Pesto Healthy?
This 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.
What to Serve with Red Pesto Pasta:
Obviously I love serving this pesto with pasta, however there are many things you can add to it. For example, sautéed mushrooms, red onion, and spinach are great veggie options. In terms of protein, grilled chicken, shrimp, or meatballs are classic accompaniments.
Or, you can forego the pasta all together and serve this pesto with roasted veggies, grilled fish, or crusty bread for dipping.Give this simple pasta recipe a try this week for a guaranteed family favorite. And be sure to snap a pic and tag #dishingouthealth on Instagram so I can see your beautiful creations. Also, follow along on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest recipe updates!
Red Pesto Pasta
- Food processor
- Large Soup Pot or Dutch Oven
- 1 lb. dry pasta of choice
- 1 roasted red pepper (from a jar of whole roasted red peppers)
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
- 1/4 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
- 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1/3 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 pepper, 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 1/2 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.