Spicy Red Pesto Pasta

Spicy Red Pesto Pasta

Today, pesto describes many sauces that don’t necessarily adhere to the traditional formula of cheese, basil, nuts and olive oil. This red version, which is inspired by pesto alla Siciliana, the scarlet cousin of green pesto Genovese, leans on sun-dried tomatoes, nuts and tangy roasted red peppers and uses basil as a garnish only. Though pesto is traditionally pounded by hand, a food processor simplifies the effort. This pasta sauce is versatile: Crown it with lemon zest for brightness, or stir in heavy cream for extra richness. Should you find yourself with extra pesto, drizzle it over steak, slather it on sandwiches or serve it alongside a cheese board or crudités.
  • Total:
  • Serves: 4 persons



  1. Step 1

    Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare the pesto: In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts, tomato paste, garlic and red-pepper flakes. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring, until mixture is toasted and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a bowl to let cool for a few minutes.
  2. Step 2

    Add the roasted red peppers and Parmesan to a food processor. Top with the cooled tomato mixture and the remaining 2/3 cup olive oil, and pulse the mixture until you form a paste. (It makes 2 cups.)
  3. Step 3

    Season the boiling water generously with salt, then add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve 1 1/2 cups pasta water, then drain the pasta.
  4. Step 4

    Return the pasta to the pot, along with about 1 1/2 cups of the red pesto and 1 cup of the pasta water, and stir vigorously until the sauce is glossy and the pasta is evenly coated. Stir in additional pesto or pasta water to taste. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Step 5

    Divide among bowls, sprinkle with Parmesan and top with torn basil. Shave some fresh lemon zest on top, if using. Serve immediately.