This creamy red pesto pasta is a delightful meat-free treat that's ready in under half an hour. It boasts Mediterranean flavours and lots of texture from the olives and pine nuts, and the pesto is 100% homemade for the perfect weeknight meal.
I'm a massive fan of red pesto dishes, and even though I occasionally buy it in a jar, nothing beats a creamy homemade pesto.
All you need to make the best red pesto at home is a food processor and a handful of ingredients.
Besides being very easy to make, red pesto is also highly customizable, so you can tweak it and truly make it your own.
The sauce works great with just about any type of pasta — the one you see in the pics is called casarecce (or strozzapreti) and is great for creamy, nutty sauces like this red pesto one.
What do you need to make red pesto pasta?
Roasted red pepper — You'll need a large roasted red potato from a jar for this recipe. You can also roast your own if you want, but that's a bit time-consuming for just one pepper.
Sundried tomatoes — Don't drain the sundried tomatoes before adding them to the food processor. Using the oil from the jar will add extra flavour.
Pine nuts — If you don't have pine nuts, you can substitute them with walnuts or even sunflower seeds.
Basil — You'll need half a bunch of basil for this creamy red pesto. This is roughly the equivalent of a packed cup of basil leaves.
Parmesan — If you're a vegetarian, you'll need to use a type of hard cheese other than Parmesan. Parmiggiano Reggiano is not vegetarian, but there are lots of vegetarian-friendly alternatives out there — just make sure you check the package.
Shallots — The mild flavour of the shallots is perfect for this red pesto pasta, but you can also use red onion if you want. Just make sure you chop it finely.
How to make it?
Next, bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the package. Reserve some pasta water before draining.
Stir in the garlic and continue to cook for another minute until fragrant. Next, add the red pesto to the pan together with a dash of pasta water and stir to combine.
Add the cream cheese and stir continuously until it melts. Add some extra pasta water if necessary. Lower the heat and allow the sauce to bubble for 1-2 minutes.
Stir in the green olives, pine nuts and fresh parsley, then transfer the cooked pasta to the pan.
Recipe notes and tips
- Since Parmesan (or vegetarian hard cheese alternatives) are quite salty, don't add extra salt before tasting the pasta.
- If you want your red pesto sauce to have a bit of a kick, add ½ teaspoon red chilli flakes.
- You can double the ingredients for the red pesto and freeze the leftovers for up to three months.
If you liked this creamy red pesto pasta recipe, you might also like some of my other creamy pasta recipes:
- Creamy Rasta Pasta Recipe
- Creamy Whisky Pasta with Smoked Salmon
- Easy Creamy Spicy Chicken Pasta
- Creamy Tomato Spinach Pasta
- Creamy Chicken and Chorizo Pasta
For the pesto
- 1 roasted red pepper
- 200 g (7 oz) sundried tomatoes with their oil
- 30 g (1 ounce) pine nuts
- ½ bunch basil (about 1 cup)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 30 g (1 ounce) grated Parmesan
For the pasta sauce
- Start by making the pesto. Add the roasted red pepper, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts, basil, garlic and grated Parmesan in a food processor and blend until you get a thick paste. Add some extra olive oil as needed to obtain a smooth paste. Taste for seasoning and add salt and freshly ground black pepper accordingly.
- Next, bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the package. Reserve some pasta water before draining.
- Meanwhile, start making the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large deep pan and saute the shallot for 2-3 minutes over medium heat until softened.
- Stir in the garlic and continue to cook for another minute until fragrant. Next, add the red pesto to the pan together with a dash of pasta water and stir to combine.
- Add the cream cheese and stir continuously until it melts. Add some extra pasta water if necessary. Lower the heat and allow the sauce to bubble for 1-2 minutes.
- Stir in the green olives, pine nuts and fresh parsley, then transfer the cooked pasta to the pan. Toss well to combine, taste for seasoning and serve with extra toasted pine nuts and Parmesan shavings on top.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 615Total Fat: 35gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 21gCholesterol: 38mgSodium: 603mgCarbohydrates: 64gFiber: 10gSugar: 24gProtein: 21g
Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator.