Pesto Rosso (Authentic Sicilian Tomato Pesto)

Pesto Rosso is a traditional Sicilian tomato pesto so easy to make at home with just a couple of fresh ingredients.

The recipe features fresh tomatoes and ricotta cheese to deliver a scrumptious sauce perfect to serve with pasta or as a spread with toasted bread for a delicious appetizer.

Pesto rosso in a jar. As seen from above.

What is Pesto Rosso?

Pesto Rosso, also known as Sicilian Pesto is another variation of the famous Pesto alla Genovese. It is a typical preparation from Sicily and is made with fresh tomatoes, pine nuts, basil, garlic, pecorino, and olive oil.

There are a few ways to make red pesto in Sicily, one of the most famous is Pesto alla Trapanese (Trapani is a Sicilian city) which uses almonds instead of pine nuts.

One more version is the sun-dried tomato pesto with pistachios from Bronte (a small city in Sicily, Italy).

Why You Should Make It

  • The recipe is extremely easy to make, simply place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it’s get the texture you prefer.
  • It uses less oil compared to the traditional pesto from Genova. Ricotta makes it creamier so you don’t need to add too much oil.
  • Is a versatile Italian recipe, you can use it to coat your favorite pasta, spread on homemade bread, or dip fresh vegetables.
  • You don’t need fancy ingredients because the ones listed below can be easily found at many local supermarkets around the world.
Pesto rosso in a jar.

The ingredients needed

  • TOMATOES – Use fresh and ripe tomatoes for a flavorful recipe.
  • RICOTTA – Fresh cow’s milk ricotta is what we used in this recipe. Sheep’s milk ricotta is also a nice option and adds a very nice taste.
  • PECORINO – Sicilian pecorino is the most common choice in Sicily, but actually, you can use other types of cured cheese, like parmesan cheese or pecorino romano, parmigiano reggiano, etc.
  • FRESH BASIL – This is pretty much to your liking. We used about 1 cup in this recipe, but you can add less or even more if you like.
  • OIL – An excellent Italian extra virgin olive oil is what you need here. If you want to add another type of oil just take in mind the taste will change.

Related: What’s the Difference Between Regular Olive Oil and Extra-Virgin Olive Oil?

  • NUTS – Pine nuts or almonds, is really up to you. You can also add other types of nuts like walnuts, cashews, etc.
  • SPICES – Garlic, salt, and pepper to your taste. I like my red pesto to have a balanced flavor so I do not add so much garlic.
Ingredients for pesto rosso labeled with names and displayed on a concrete surface.

How To Make Sicilian Tomato Pesto (+ video below)

  • Cut tomatoes into halves, remove the core, and discard the seeds. Place them to drain on a colander for about 20 minutes.
  • In a food processor place the tomatoes, basil, pecorino, pine nuts, and the garlic clove (see notes).
  • Add salt and pepper (just a little bit, you’ll adjust later), and then pour in the olive oil. Pulse until the ingredients are finely chopped or until you reach the desired consistency.
  • Place the mixture in a medium bowl. Add ricotta and season with salt and pepper. Mix until everything is combined.
  • Transfer the pesto rosso sauce into a large jar and add the remaining olive oil on top. Store in the fridge or use it immediately.

Useful Notes

  • Don’t skip draining the tomatoes or you will end with a runny sauce.
  • If you have a small food processor you can work in batches adding small amounts of the ingredients each time.
  • I like my pesto rosso sauce to be a little bit “rustic” with some small bites of tomato and basil here and there. So I just do a few pulses with the food processor. If you like it more smoothly just keep processing until you achieve the desired texture.
  • You can also blanch the tomatoes and peel them before deseeding or roast them for a depth of flavor.
  • Do you want your Italian pesto to have a little more color? Add one teaspoon of tomato paste or a couple of sundry tomatoes.
  • Sometimes, I like to add some fresh red chili peppers or red pepper flakes to the mix. It gives a nice spicy touch.
  • The recipe yields 6 servings of pesto to use with pasta. Each serving of pasta is about 60-80 gr uncooked  (2.1 to 2.8 oz).
A ceramic baking dish with fusilli pasta coated with pesto rosso.

What Do You Use Pesto Rosso For?

While our first option is to use this pesto alla siciliana to coat our favorite pasta, the truth is it can be used in so many other ways. For example:

  • Bruschetta – Toast some slices of bread, let it cool slightly then spread the pesto on top. So delicious!
  • Wraps – Use pesto to make your favorite wraps. My husband loves grilled veggies, mozzarella, and pesto!
  • Sandwiches – Get some sandwich bread, spread with pesto, add some slices of Fontina (or any other string cheese), and then to the grill for a few minutes…mamma mia! so so good for a quick lunch.
  • Pizza – Add some dollops of pesto on top of your favorite pizza or focaccia to bring it to the next level!
  • Dip – Use as sauce or dip for fried mozzarella or fresh veggies.

How To Store

Because of the fresh ricotta cheese, this pesto doesn’t last more than 3 days. So, you might want to adjust the ingredients to make only the amount you know you will consume within that period of time.

After you make this great recipe, use it immediately with your favorite dish (chicken pasta, as a spread, etc). Then put the leftovers in a jar and store them in the fridge for up to three days.

Watch How To Make It

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Pesto Rosso (Sicilian pesto with tomatoes)

author Maricruz
6 servings
Creamy and so full of flavor this Pesto Rosso (red pesto) is perfect to serve with pasta or as a spread with toasted bread.
prep 10 minutes
resting time 20 minutes
total 30 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 1 lb fresh tomatoes
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese
  • cup sicilian pecorino cheese (or parmesan)
  • bunch basil leaves (about ¾ cup)
  • cup extra virgin olive oil
  • cup pine nuts
  • 1 garlic clove (peeled)
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

Instructions
 

  • Cut tomatoes in halves, remove the core and discard the seeds.
  • Place them to drain on a colander for about 20 minutes.
  • In a food processor place the tomatoes, basil, pecorino, pine nuts, and the garlic clove.
  • Add salt and pepper, then pour in the olive oil.
  • Pulse until the ingredients are finely chopped or until you reach the desired consistency.
  • Place the mixture in a medium bowl.
  • Add ricotta and season with salt and pepper. Mix until everything is combined.
  • Transfer to a large jar and pour some olive oil on top.
  • Use as a condiment for pasta or spread for crusty bread, pizza, or sandwiches.

Notes

  • If you have a small food processor you can work in batches adding small amounts of the ingredients each time.
  • I like my pesto to be a little bit “rustic” with some small bites of tomato and basil here and there. So I just do a few pulses with the food processor.
  • If your garlic is a bit old, remove the green germ that has grew on the inside.
  • You can also blench the tomatoes and peel them before deseeding.
  • Do you want your pesto to have a little more color? Add one teaspoon of tomato paste.
  • I like to add some fresh red chilli peppers on the mix sometimes. It gives a nice spicy touch!
  • The recipe yields 6 servings of pesto to use with pasta. Each serving of pasta is about 60-80 gr uncooked  (2.1 or 2.8 oz).
Nutrition Information
Calories: 250kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 22mg | Sodium: 155mg | Potassium: 257mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 769IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 170mg | Iron: 1mg
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8 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I am a regular visitor of your website . I can enrich my cooking skill by seeing your blog .the procedure of sicilian tomato pesto was amazing .

  2. 5 stars
    It was a very easy-to-follow recipe, thanks so much for all information and tips you added to the recipe, it was very helpful. I served with some warm pita and it was a success!
    Next time ill try with peanuts :)

  3. 5 stars
    I know is a silly question to ask, can leave out the ricotta cheese as my tummy lately can’t much creamy elements in

  4. 5 stars
    Amazing recipe, is indeed quick and so easy to make. I used the rosso pesto with my gluten-free pasta and it was delicious!