How to Cook With Pesto Rosso


Pesto rosso is a flavorful red condiment from southern Italy. Though similar in form to traditional green pesto from the Genovese region, made with basil, garlic, oil, pine nuts and cheese, this pesto gets its color from sun-dried tomatoes. This savory versatile sauce can be used to liven up a variety of dishes.

Basic Pesto Rosso

  • Blend sun-dried tomatoes, almonds, peppers, basil, olive oil, and cheese to make pesto rosso. Though the traditional method of preparation is to crush or pound the ingredients with a mortar and pestle, you can achieve excellent results by pureeing the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Place pesto in an airtight container and cover with a layer of extra virgin olive oil. Store the container in the refrigerator for up to one week or freeze to use later.

Variations on Traditional Pesto Rosso

  • If you plan to use the pesto with seafood or prefer a lighter pesto, omit the cheese. Substitute rosemary for basil for a different flavor profile. For a richer flavor, add chopped, pitted oil-cured black olives. Include aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes to add heat to your pesto. Mix in a few tablespoons of red pesto to tomato-based soups such as minestrone or seafood stews such as cioppino to add depth and enhance flavor.

Pesto Rosso Bruschetta

  • For a simple, yet elegant bruschetta, slice a baguette loaf into 1/2-inch-thick pieces. Brush the bread slices with olive oil and place them on a cookie sheet; lightly toast in the oven. Spread each piece with red pesto and top with diced tomatoes, freshly chopped basil and grated Parmesan cheese.

Pasta with Vegetables and Pesto

  • Boil farfalle or orecchiette pasta according to the package directions. Saute onions, zucchini, mushrooms and sliced red pepper in olive oil until cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss the cooked pasta and vegetables with a few tablespoons of pesto rosso. Serve immediately garnished with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.

Pesto Grilled Cheese

  • Spread pesto rosso on slices of thick rustic bread and top with fresh spinach and thin slices of red onion, tomato and buffalo mozzarella cheese. Place the open-faced sandwiches into the oven and broil until the cheese is melted and slightly browned. To create delicious party appetizers, use smaller, thinner slices of bread. Garnish each piece with freshly chopped herbs.

Chicken Pesto

  • Pesto rosso pairs deliciously with chicken. Saute slices of chicken breast until they are cooked through and slightly browned. Add onions and garlic and saute until they're golden brown. Add stock and seasoning to the pan and reduce. Mix in the red pesto and creme fraiche or cream and bring to a simmer. Serve with the pasta of your choice for an easy, chic weeknight meal.

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