What Is Red Pesto Made From?

Red pesto (pesto rosso)

Short answer
Red pesto is usually made from fresh, roasted, or sun-dried tomatoes, although sometimes bell peppers, chilli flakes, or paprika may be the source of the vibrant red colour.

Long answer
Not to be confused with Pesto alla Trapanese, red pesto is a variation of the traditional green pesto that hails from Genoa. In Sicily, you will commonly find it served with busiate pasta.

Generally speaking, red pesto contains many of the same ingredients you'll find in the official recipe: olive oil, basil, garlic, salt, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and pecorino, but with the pine nuts replaced with almonds and tomatoes added.

Most commonly, the tomatoes will have been sun-dried or oven-roasted to concentrate their flavour. This tends to make the sauce incredibly rich, which means you only need to use it sparingly.

As you would expect, there are plenty of red pesto variations. Bell peppers can sometimes be responsible for the sauce's colour, and you can even find a red pesto that gets its colour from the inclusion of fresh chillies and paprika.

Pro tip
If you're making red pesto at home using sun-dried tomatoes, don't throw away the oil they come in. This oil is incredibly flavourful and makes a tasty alternative to standard olive oil.