The Foodie Physician: Cook Once, Eat Twice: Pesto Rosso

Cook Once, Eat Twice: Pesto Rosso

Pesto is the perfect summer dish.  It’s quick, easy and doesn’t involve turning on the stove.  The name comes from the Italian word pestare, meaning to pound or crush, as traditionally it was made by crushing the ingredients together in a mortar and pestle. When most of us hear the word pesto, we think of pesto genovese, a traditional green pesto from Genoa, Italy made with fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and Parmigiano Reggiano.  But there are actually several different types of pesto originating from different regions of Italy, each taking advantage of local ingredients.  

Pesto rosso, or red pesto, uses tomatoes along with heart healthy almonds (click here to read all about the health benefits of almonds and other nuts).  Some varieties use sundried tomatoes.  Another variety from Sicily, pesto trapanese, uses fresh cherry tomatoes.  I decided to make my own pesto rosso using a combination of sundried tomatoes and fresh cherry tomatoes.  I like the combination of  sweetness from the sundried tomatoes with the fresh, bright flavor of the cherry tomatoes. Plus, when making traditional pesto, you often have to use a lot of olive oil to get it to the right consistency, which adds a lot of calories and fat.  By adding some fresh tomatoes, it makes the pesto a little looser and adds volume, thereby cutting down the amount of oil needed.   

This recipe is extremely easy- simply place all of the ingredients in a food processor in stages and pulse until it’s all combined.  No cooking needed!  I don't like my pesto pureed into a smooth, homogenous mixture.  I keep it slightly chunky- not only do I prefer the texture but I also like to see the flecks of the individual ingredients.  

Pesto rosso is a really versatile spread and it fits into my philosophy of Cook Once, Eat Twice.  Once you make a batch, you can store it in the fridge and use it in so many different ways over the course of the week.   For a classic preparation, mix the pesto with a little pasta water and toss it with hot pasta.  Top it with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and you have a delicious dinner in under thirty minutes.  Here are some other ways you can use it:

  • Spread it on hot or cold sandwiches- anything from turkey sandwiches to grilled cheese
  • Top grilled chicken breasts, fish or other meats with it
  • Mix it with a little ricotta or goat cheese and use it as a stuffing for chicken breasts or pork chops
  • Add flavor to vegetarian or egg dishes- try stirring a spoonful into sautéed vegetables or a frittata
  • Mix it with Greek yogurt to make a healthy dip for vegetables or chips
  • Spread it on garlic bread for an extra hit of flavor
  • Use it onto homemade pizza dough as an alternative to tomato sauce
  • Spread it on toasted country bread and top it off with some arugula and shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano for a healthy snack

Fast, delicious, and you don’t have to turn on the stove- it doesn’t get much easier than that.

Pesto Rosso
Makes 1 1/3 cups pesto or 8 servings 

1.5 ounces chopped almonds (about 1/3 cup)
½ cup sundried tomatoes
1 clove garlic, chopped
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 leaves fresh basil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
5 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Place the almonds, sundried tomatoes, garlic, red pepper flakes and basil in a food processor.

Pulse until the ingredients are finely chopped.  

Add the vinegar and tomatoes and pulse again until the tomatoes are finely chopped.  With the food processor running, add the oil in a steady stream until a thick, slightly chunky paste forms.  Do not over process.  Stop the food processor and scrape down the sides.  Then, add the cheese and process again until just combined.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.   

One serving:  Calories 114; Fat 10.3g; (Sat 1.5g); Protein 2.2g; Carb 3.8g; Fiber 1.3g

Stay tuned for an upcoming post, which will feature my homemade Pesto Rosso in a delicious pasta dish. 


  1. This pesto sounds fabulous, Sonali! I adore pesto, but I've never tried a Pesto Rossa before. I'm going to have to give it a try ...

  2. What a delicious pesto!! Never had it like this before but just by looking at it I know it's gonna be an awesome party in my mouth! :D

  3. Haha, thanks! If you try it, I hope the party's a great success! :)

  4. I'm a fan of sun-dried tomatoes. I haven't made pesto because pine nuts scare me off thanks to their expense, but I can totally do almonds. Can't wait to try this in all kinds of dishes.

  5. I have the same problem! Pine nuts are really expensive and they're usually only sold in large bags so I have a hard time using them up (although you can freeze them). I like using almonds... you can also try walnuts if you prefer them.

  6. I just linked up this recipe with Amee's Savory Dish's Fit & Fabulous Fridays:

  7. I just found this dish on Amee's Savory Dish, and it looks fantastic! Sun dried tomato anything can't be bad... especially in a pesto! Can't wait to try!

    ~ Leah @

  8. I love pesto of any kind and always forget about this variation. I've bookmarked it to make soon - have almost all the ingredients on hand!

    1. Me too! I like creating all different kinds of pesto- this is definitely one of my favorites.

  9. I have always made and used the green pesto, never the red.I will definitely do the red variant and use it in the variety of ways that you have suggested, especially as a dip.
    Would adding water make it perishable faster?

    1. The fresh tomatoes already have a good amount of water in them so I don't think it would make a big difference. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

  10. Oh, and I may use sun dried tomatoes and home grown fresh basil, and I'll use grape seed oil instead since that's what I keep in the house :)

  11. I made the Pesto Rosso, following your directions and it turned out very well. I am using it as a dip and left over for just as a spread for my bagels. Yummy.




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