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This red pesto pasta combines a rich, robust homemade roasted red pepper and sun-dried tomato pesto sauce (pesto rosso) with pasta. Serve it with your protein/ veg of choice for a delicious and nutritious, low-fuss meal that comes together in just 20 minutes!

completed Red Pepper and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta (Red Pesto Pasta) plated against a light background
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Vibrant and Rich Red Pepper and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta

If you’ve never tried red pesto, you’re in for a treat. This tomato pesto pasta recipe replaces classic green basil pesto with a red pesto sauce made with roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes. The result is deep, tangy, super rich, slightly sweet, ever-so-slightly smoky, and umami-packed.

Not only is this budget-friendly tomato pesto sauce easy to prepare with just a few simple, affordable pantry ingredients and a food processor, but it’s also dairy-free, nut-free, gluten-free, and vegan, and easily customizable to what you have on hand.

Better yet, this tomato and red pepper pesto takes just minutes to prepare, is meal-prep friendly, and pairs well with practically everything (check the FAQs) – though we’re particularly obsessed with making this easy pesto pasta recipe. The combination packs a flavorful punch, is filling, satisfying, easy to pair with extra protein and veg, and is a great quick, meat-free family favorite dinner in just 20 minutes.

You might also enjoy this Avocado Pesto Pasta, Arugula Pesto Couscous, or Tandoori Pasta.

The Ingredients and Substitutes

ingredients for Red Pepper and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta (Red Pesto Pasta) measured out against a white surface

The Roasted Red Pepper and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

  • Roasted red peppers: Use jarred or home-roasted red peppers.
  • Sun-dried tomatoes: These provide super concentrated tomato flavor in this red pesto recipe. It’s best to use oil-packed tomatoes.

You can even replace the olive oil with this oil for a flavor boost.

  • Garlic: We prefer using fresh garlic, though garlic powder works in a pinch.
  • Fresh herbs: We used a combination of fresh basil and parsley, which pair wonderfully with the red pepper and tomato pesto.
  • Seeds: We often replace traditional pine nuts with affordable sunflower seeds, or walnuts. Use raw almonds for a more traditional pesto rosso flavor.
  • Nutritional yeast: This ingredient replaces parmesan cheese in this vegan sun-dried tomato pesto recipe, adding an umami-rich, nutty, ‘cheesy’ flavor.  
  • Extra-virgin olive oil: (optional) Will provide the sun-dried tomato and red pepper pesto with a richer, silkier mouthfeel.
  • Red pepper flakes: (optional) To create a spicy red pesto. Add to taste.
  • Salt & black pepper: Use kosher/sea salt and season the red pesto to taste.

Alternatively, save time and effort by using your favorite store-bought pesto. Green pesto (like Parsley Pesto with Arugula or Vegan Walnut Pesto) will also work.

The Pasta Ingredients

  • Pasta: Use short-shaped pasta with ridges for the sauce to cling to or any pasta (regular, whole wheat, or gluten-free), including orzo or giant couscous. For a lower-carb option, pair the tomato basil pesto with zucchini noodles.
  • Water: Cook pasta using lightly salted water OR vegetable stock for more flavor.
  • Silken tofu: This blends seamlessly into the tomato pesto sauce with only a subtle flavor but plenty of creaminess and a hefty protein boost.

For a soy-free pesto rosso pasta, replace the tofu with cashew cream/other dairy-free cream, dairy-free cream cheese and pasta water OR only the starchy pasta water (which won’t be as creamy).

What Could I Add to Red Pesto Sauce?

  • Lemon: A small amount of lemon juice (optionally with lemon zest) will brighten the flavor and add acidity. Balsamic vinegar would also work.
  • Paprika: Choose hot or smoked paprika according to your desired flavor.
  • Olives/Capers: Either of these ingredients create a deeper tangy, salty flavor in the pesto with sundried tomatoes.

How to make Pesto Pasta

Keep scrolling to the recipe card for the complete list of ingredients and recipe instructions.

  • 1) First, peel the garlic cloves, then add them with the remaining red pesto ingredients and silken tofu to a food processor and process to your desired consistency – we made it smooth. Pause to scrape down the sides as needed.

Then, taste the tomato pesto sauce and adjust any ingredients to your liking.

  • 2) Meanwhile, prepare your pasta of choice according to their package instructions.
  • 3) Once cooked, drain the pasta, optionally reserving about a cup of the pasta water, then return the pasta to the pot.
  • 4) Pour the red pesto sauce into the pot and mix well. Optionally mix in some of the reserved pasta water for a smoother/thinner sauce. Then enjoy!

To make red pesto pasta salad, cook the pasta first and leave it to cool (or rinse it with cold water) while you prepare the tomato and roasted red pepper pesto.

Recipe Pro Tips

  • Adjust the texture: Watch the processor to blend the sun-dried tomato and red pepper pesto recipe to your desired consistency (i.e., slightly chunky or smooth).
  • Make the pesto ahead when possible: Leaving it to ‘marinate’ even just for an hour (though overnight is better) will help the flavors meld and enhance.
  • Al dente vs. tender pasta: For warm pasta, cook it al dente. However, for cold red pesto pasta salad (especially if you plan to meal-prep it), cook it until it’s tender, as the refrigerator will make it tougher.
  • For extra flavor: Lightly toast the nuts/seeds until aromatic before making the sun-dried tomato pesto.
  • Save some pasta water: This starchy liquid can help the red pesto to coat the pasta and is better than regular water to help smooth/thin the sauce.

FAQs

How to roast red peppers?

Slice the peppers in half, removing the ribs, seeds, and top. Then place them cut-side down on a baking tray with a little oil and roast at 325F/170C for 20-25 minutes. Until tender and lightly browned. Broil to blacken the skin for extra smokiness.

Then transfer the hot peppers to a covered container for 10 minutes before peeling the skin.

Can I use vacuum-packed sun-dried tomatoes?

While possible, you’ll need to soak them in hot water for 5 minutes to plump them up a little first.

How else can I use red pesto?

Aside from pasta, you can mix this pesto rosso into any other grain of your choosing (warm or chilled) or use it to:

Spread in sandwiches, wraps, bagels, pita, vegan grilled cheese, etc.
Dollop or drizzle over pizza/calzones.
Marinate tofu or tempeh.
Make salad dressings or add to dips (like hummus/white bean dip).
Toss with roasted vegetables (and dollop over cauliflower steaks).
Spread over bruschetta and avocado toast.
Dip fries and grilled/roasted potatoes.

completed Red Pepper and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta (Red Pesto Pasta) plated against a light background

What Goes with Pesto Pasta?

This red pesto pasta is a truly versatile side dish, perfect for pulling together a full meal with your choice of veggies and protein like:

  • Enjoy this pesto pasta with tomatoes (roasted, raw, or sun-dried tomatoes)
  • Roasted/steamed broccoli, asparagus, green beans, eggplant, etc.
  • Sauteed mushrooms or zucchini
  • Peas or corn (if frozen, cook directly in the pasta pot)
  • Beans (stir in canned chickpeas, white beans, etc., before serving)
  • Tofu or tempeh (crispy, marinated, kabobs, etc.)
  • Vegan meat alternatives (i.e., vegan chicken, shrimp, fish, etc.)

You can also garnish the pesto rosso pasta with toasted pine nuts, fresh herbs, and/or vegan cheese (like dairy-free cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan, or crumbly feta).

Storage Directions

Once fully assembled, any leftover red pesto pasta will store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. The pesto alone will store for 5-7 days. It actually tastes better on day two, so we recommend making it in advance when covered with a thin layer of oil.

To freeze the pepper and tomato pesto, we like to pour it into portions in an ice cube tray to freeze for up to 6 months. While it’s technically possible to freeze the assembled pesto pasta, the pasta becomes mushy upon thawing.

To reheat the red pesto pasta, add a splash of water and heat it in the microwave or on the stovetop until warm.

Red Pepper and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta (Red Pesto Pasta)

5 from 73 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6
This red pesto pasta combines a rich, robust homemade roasted red pepper and sun-dried tomato pesto sauce (pesto rosso) with pasta. Serve it with your protein/ veg of choice for a delicious and nutritious, low-fuss meal that comes together in just 20 minutes!

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup roasted red peppers (from a jar of whole roasted red peppers)
  • 1 cup of fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • ½ cup of sun-dried tomatoes, drained
  • 1 (12.3-ounces) box of silken tofu
  • 3 tablespoons of sunflower seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil, optional
  • 3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, optional
  • ½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • Parsley, chopped
  • 1 pound of pasta of choice optional

Instructions 

  • Add all of the ingredients to a food processor (except the pasta) and process until smooth. When the desired consistency is reached, set aside.
  • Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain and quickly bring the hot pasta back to the pot.
  • Immediately add the red pesto and mix well.
  • Serve immediately to enjoy hot.

Notes

To serve cold, cook the pasta first and allow it to cool while the pesto is being made.
  • Adjust the texture: Watch the processor to blend the sun-dried tomato and red pepper pesto recipe to your desired consistency (i.e., slightly chunky or smooth).
  • Make the pesto ahead when possible: Leaving it to ‘marinate’ even just for an hour (though overnight is better) will help the flavors meld and enhance.
  • Al dente vs. tender pasta: For warm pasta, cook it al dente. However, for cold red pesto pasta salad (especially if you plan to meal-prep it), cook it until it’s tender, as the refrigerator will make it tougher.
  • For extra flavor: Lightly toast the nuts/seeds until aromatic before making the sun-dried tomato pesto.

Nutrition

Calories: 642kcalCarbohydrates: 101gProtein: 26gFat: 16gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gSodium: 521mgPotassium: 1128mgFiber: 8gSugar: 10gVitamin A: 781IUVitamin C: 25mgCalcium: 102mgIron: 5mg

Disclaimer: Although plantbasedonabudget.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. Plantbasedonabudget.com will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.

Additional Info

Author: Toni Okamoto
Course: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: American
Method: Stovetop
Diet: Vegan
Tried this recipe?Please tag us at @PlantBasedOnABudget! 🙂
About

Toni Okamoto

“They say you are what you eat, so I strive to be healthy.
My goal in life is not to be rich or wealthy,
‘Cause true wealth comes from good health and wise ways…
we got to start taking better care of ourselves ” – Dead Prez

More about Toni Okamoto

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Comments

  1. So just to clarify, we are not cooking the pesto sauce, correct? Will it be served “warm”? It looks delicious and I want to make sure I do this correctly.

  2. 5 stars
    Phenomenal!! I am Plant perfect (Dr Esselstyn….I have heart disease) and made this without oil or seeds….I didn’t have parsley. I used no oils sun dried tomatoes. First of all, that was the absolute quickest sauce I ever made….second of all MAMA MIA!!!! Yum yum yummy yum.

  3. 5 stars
    Yum! This red pepper and sun-dried tomato pesto pasta is a yummy and easy weeknight dinner … thanks for the recipe!

  4. 5 stars
    This pasta might be my new fave—it’s so flavorful and delicious! I can already tell I’m going to be making it often!

  5. 5 stars
    I’m obsessed with red peppers so I had to try this out. It was so delicious and the whole family gobbled it up. I can’t wait to make it again.

  6. 5 stars
    Such a delicious pasta recipe. The combination of the dried tomato pesto with a bit of spice was SO great.

  7. 5 stars
    The flavours of this sauce are so good and luscious – love roasted peppers so much, and this works so well with the pasta. Yum – thanks for the great recipe!