When you think about pesto, the first thing that comes to mind is the traditional green Pesto alla Genovese, the world-famous cold sauce made with fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil and pine nuts. But how about red pesto?
However, even though that version is absolutely delicious, it’s not the only kind we have here in Italy. On the contrary, it is possible to find a lot of different varieties of this sauce all over the country, quite different one from the other but all incredibly tasty and flavorful. In fact, the Italian word “pesto” simply means “to pound” and is used to refer to any kind of uncooked sauce made by crushing the ingredients with a mortar and pestle or simply a blender.
In this recipe, I want to share with you my grandmother’s own version of a classical Sicilian red pesto. As her family was originally from Sicily, it has quite a strong sentimental connection for us. The real protagonists of this recipe are sun-dried tomatoes, a wonderful ingredient that is really popular in southern Italy. Moreover, this pesto calls for arugula instead of basil and a lot of delicious almonds. I’m sure you will love it!
Red pesto has an earthy and savory taste that makes it great both as a pasta sauce and simply enjoyed on its own on a toasted slice of bread. Nevertheless, you can also use it to give more flavor to a soup, a salad or anything you like, really! If you store it in an airtight jar in your fridge, it will last for a few days.
Sun-dried tomatoes can be found in two different forms: dry-packed or in oil. This recipe uses the second version as they are usually a little milder in flavor and are ready to use. However, if you prefer to use the dry-packed ones instead, it is perfectly fine. In this case, just remember to soak them in warm water for a few hours before making the pesto.
Finally, note that salt is not included in this recipe. As sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and ricotta cheese are all quite salty and rich in flavor, you shouldn’t need any extra.
Italian Red Pesto with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Arugula
Drain sun-dried tomatoes from the jar and cut them into smaller pieces.
In a food processor, blend garlic, almonds and sun-dried tomatoes until chunky.
Add arugula and Parmesan cheese.
While blending, slowly drizzle the olive oil on top of the other ingredients until you reach the desired consistency. Be careful not to over-process the sauce as it might start to cook ruining the final product.
Finally, transfer the pesto in a bowl and incorporate the ricotta cheese, mixing well with a spoon. Salt, to taste
Giorgia was born in a small town on the Italian Riviera, half the way between Genova and the Cinque Terre, just a few miles away from where pesto was invented. She has a background in psychology and neuroscience and is now completing her training to become a licensed psychologist while working as a web writer. As most of the time happens in Italy, it was her lovely grandmother that taught her how to cook and enjoy every bite of simple and genuine food. Giorgia loves preparing meals for family and friends and her specialty are authentic Sicilian and Ligurian dishes. Other than cooking, her greatest passions are traveling and trekking. Her biggest dream is to be able to see (and taste!) as much of the word as possible.