Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

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When basil isn’t in season, try Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto! Made with walnuts, it’s punchy and sweet. Try it with pasta (of course), but also as a spread on sandwiches, as a dip with veggies, or stirred into soup!

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Photography Credit: Alison Conklin

It’s my firm belief—conviction, even—that pesto is the best condiment ever. If you disagree, perhaps this particular pesto will convince you.

A Pesto for Winter?

The second basil pops up at the farmers’ market, it’s a sure thing that there will soon be a container of freshly made pesto in my fridge, ready to be used in endless ways–served over grilled chicken or swirled into homemade hummus.

But once we roll into fall and the basil goes away, my culinary sadness begins. Or it used to. You see, I’ve got a little pesto-digitation at the ready: sun-dried tomato pesto.

How to Make Pesto with Sun-Dried Tomatoes add all ingredients to the food processor

How to Make Pesto with Sun-Dried Tomatoes add all ingredients to the food processor

Pesto with Walnuts and Sun-Dried Tomatoes finish the pesto

Pesto with Walnuts and Sun-Dried Tomatoes finish the pesto

How to Make Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

While nothing like basil, sun-dried tomatoes are actually a great stand-in when it comes to pesto. They’re a punchy, sweet-and-savory umami bomb. When paired with walnuts, salty cheese, a few garlic cloves, and plenty of olive oil, you have a fabulous cold-season pesto at the ready.

Like most pesto, this recipe comes together quickly. A short blitz in a food processor or blender (or, if you’re going super old school, a slow smash with a mortar and pestle) and you’re set to go.

Walnut Pesto with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Walnut Pesto with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

A Flexible Pesto Recipe

This recipe is extremely flexible, so think of it more as a set of guidelines. Don’t have Parmesan? Pecorino or asiago work just as well. I’ve even used feta.

As for the nuts, slightly bitter walnuts are my favorite to balance the natural sweetness of the tomatoes, but I’ve used peanuts, almonds, and pecans and loved them all.

If I have a jar of roasted sweet red peppers on hand, I cut them into quarters and add one or two to the mix for more sweetness, but if you don’t have them, then don’t stress.

Pesto with Walnuts and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Pesto with Walnuts and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Ways to Use Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

Now, while the go-to use might be for dressing pasta (and yes, you absolutely should), I use this pesto as an all-purpose condiment.

It’s a lovely mix-in for soups, as a spread on sandwiches, a topping for bruschetta, and for dolloping over roasted vegetables and meats. The pesto is sweet and salty, but not overly so, with a tinge of bitterness from the walnuts. It’s a phenomenal equalizer and balancer, bringing to dishes that “little something” that might be missing.

Pesto with Tomatoes add the olive oil

Pesto with Tomatoes add the olive oil

How to store and freeze sun-dried tomato pesto

This pesto keeps for about a week in the fridge, but will store in the freezer for three months before it begins to lose its potency. This is great because even when basil comes back in season, it’s a guarantee that I’ll get the sudden craving for this ruddy pesto again.

When freezing, be sure to pack the pesto tightly in an airtight container to force out any air pockets; otherwise it can lose flavor. After removing the pesto from the fridge or freezer, bring it to room temperature before using, as the olive oil will have turned solid from the cold.

More Pesto Recipes!

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Recipe

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You can purchase sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil at most grocery stores and online. It’s fairly inexpensive and I usually stock up on a few jars at a time.

Although you don’t have to toast the nuts for this recipe, it’s encouraged. You’ll get a lot more flavor out of them.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup walnuts (or other nut)
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
  • 1 to 2 roasted red pepper quarters, from a jar (about 1/4 cup, optional)
  • 1/2 cup good quality olive oil

Method

1 Toast the walnuts: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the nuts on a sheet pan in a single layer. Toast for 6 to 8 minutes or until fragrant and lightly colored. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Homemade Pesto with Tomato recipe toast the walnuts

2 Start processing the ingredients: Place the half of the sun-dried tomatoes along with all the walnuts, cheeses, garlic, salt, pepper, chili flakes and preserved roasted red pepper (if using) into a food processor or blender. Pulse a few times until chopped well.

How to Make Pesto with Sun-Dried Tomatoes add all ingredients to the food processor

3 Add the rest of the tomatoes and the oil: Next, add the rest of the sun-dried tomatoes and the oil they’re packed in. (Splitting up the tomatoes will add some variance in texture.)

With the motor running, steam in the olive oil, pausing to scrape down the sides once or twice, until the pesto has a uniform, but not-quite-pureed, consistency. (You want to ensure there’s still a bit of chunkiness to get a nice, toothsome texture.)

Use right away or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months for when needed.

Tomato Pesto Recipe process the pesto Pesto with Tomatoes add the olive oil Pesto with Walnuts and Sun-Dried Tomatoes finish the pesto

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Garrett McCord

Garrett McCord is a professional writer and recipe developer whose work has appeared in many print and online publications such as Gourmet Live, Saveur, Huffington Post, Smithsonian, and NPR. Past clients also include numerous food companies, wineries, and distilleries. Garrett writes about cocktails on his website, Coupe de Grace.

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