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What Is Tomato Pesto?

Sara Schmidt
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Like its green counterpart, tomato pesto is a sauce made for serving with pasta, vegetables, and other dishes. It typically consists of sun-dried tomatoes and seasonings mixed together in a blender or food processor. Various cheeses, such as Parmesan, are also often added to a tomato pesto recipe.

Garlic, basil, and pepper are the most commonly used herbs utilized in a tomato pesto recipe. Fresh garlic cloves are typically recommended in lieu of dried or powdered garlic. Many cooks add their own personal favorite ingredients as well, such as chopped onion for texture and flavor, or pine nuts for crunch. Parsley is another favorite herb used in preparation of the sauce.

If using sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, there should already be enough liquid in the can to use in making the pesto. Some cooks, however, like to add other liquid ingredients for added flavor. Flavored olive oils are a popular choice, as is red wine. For a tangy twist, some cooks include balsamic vinegar. One of these choices or another choice will be required if the tomatoes are not packed in oil as well.

Tomato pesto is a particularly versatile sauce. Home cooks can add nearly anything they have on hand, from dried herbs to fresh chopped vegetables or crisp fruit, to a red pesto dish. Apples are a favorite fruit to use in a pesto pasta, providing both crunch and, depending upon the cook's personal preferences, sweetness or tartness. A nutty flavor can be added with fresh chopped almonds or pecans.

Though this pesto makes a delicious vegetarian meal, people can also add any meat desired to most dishes made from this tomato sauce. Sausage is a popular meat to use with tomato pesto. Pepperoni can give the meal a bolder, Italian flavor, while crumbled hamburger can provide people with the small amount of meat that they might want in a noodle dish.

Vegetables do not have to be a side dish or garnish, however, when it comes to fresh tomato pesto. Many main dishes can be composed of fresh prepared vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts or baked potatoes, that are served with the pesto sauce. Pesto pizza can be quite tasty, and chunky pesto can serve as a salsa replacement. Fresh pesto used in stuffed pepper recipes can create a unique, refined taste that can bring a home cooked meal to the level of a restaurant entree.

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Sara Schmidt
By Sara Schmidt
With a Master's Degree in English from Southeast Missouri State University, Sara Schmidt puts her expertise to use by writing for DelightedCooking, plus various magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She published her own novella and has other literary projects in the works. Sara's diverse background includes teaching children in Spain, tutoring college students, running CPR and first aid classes, and organizing student retreats, reflecting her passion for education and community engagement.
Discussion Comments
By andee — On Dec 13, 2011

I have made sun dried tomato pesto sauce before, but I think the best tomato pesto is made with fresh tomatoes. Any year when I have a bumper crop of tomatoes from my garden, I know we will be eating lots of pesto!

I have become quite creative when it comes to using this in different recipes. My family loves it with baked chicken, any kind of pasta noodles and some mozzarella cheese sprinkled on top. I also like mine with some pine nuts on top for some extra texture and crunch.

When I have more fresh tomatoes than I know what to do with. I will puree them in a blender and freeze them in individual bags. This way when I want some fresh tomato pesto, my tomatoes are all ready to go.

By sunshined — On Dec 12, 2011

@turquoise - I have a sun dried tomato pesto recipe that I use for many foods.

In addition to the sun dried tomatoes, it has basil, garlic, lemon zest, salt and olive oil. What really sets this apart are the toasted almonds, and of course, you can't forget the parmigiano reggianno cheese.

One of my favorite ways to eat this is just on a piece of toasted bread. It complements any meal, and I have also used it as a sauce for most any Italian pasta dish.

Another nice thing about this is any leftovers will last for about 4 weeks in the refrigerator. I like to make a big batch, so I have extra on hand for the next week.

By bear78 — On Dec 12, 2011

@turquoise-- It is so easy to make sun dried tomato pesto! Just make sure that you have good quality ingredients.

The ingredients I use when I make it is sun dried tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, walnuts, basil, Parmesan cheese and salt. All you basically need to do is chop these up and put it through a food processor and it's done!

You can also change ingredients around if you prefer something else. I always try to put a type of nut and cheese in it because it becomes a nice protein source that way. I'm a vegetarian, and this pesto is a staple in my kitchen. I can have this pesto with fresh Italian bread for all of my meals!

By candyquilt — On Dec 11, 2011

@turquoise-- Of course nothing beats homemade tomato pesto. But if you don't have time to make it, store-bought is pretty good too, especially the organic ones.

I use the store-bought kind for sandwiches and paninis. And I think tomato pesto is just as easily found as other types of pesto. They all sit next to each other at the store, but I suppose some stores might have more choices than others.

My mom makes really good homemade tomato pesto which she sends me once in a while. I use that as pasta sauce. I don't have a recipe for sun dried tomato pesto unfortunately, but I know that my mom puts garlic, oregano and lots of olive oil in her tomato pesto. It's delicious.

By turquoise — On Dec 10, 2011

@widget-- Interesting! I, on the other hand, thought that pesto can only go on pasta or sandwiches. My favorite sandwich shop has a great Mediterranean style sandwich made of fresh mozzarella and lots of pesto.

Is tomato pesto not very popular in the US or is it just me? I remember having basil pesto countless times but I have not tasted tomato pesto as of yet.

I actually love the cheese-tomato combination and I think some tomato pesto would go great for breakfast sandwiches as well as meat sandwiches for lunch or dinner. I could probably use tomato pesto as a topping on a meatball sandwich rather than tomato sauce. I think pesto has a thicker consistency and it sounds very flavorful so it would probably be much easier and tastier to eat than tomato sauce. And I'm a huge fan of anything sun-dried so sun-dried tomato pesto sounds amazing!

How do you guys like the ready-made pesto in stores? Would you prefer homemade tomato pesto or store bought?

Can anyone share some good sun-dried tomato pesto recipes?

By aaaCookie — On Dec 10, 2011

@widget2010- Sun dried tomato is even more flexible than pesto. I have used it in breads, muffins, even soups. It can add a lot to a dish. And while we all think we know tomato soup, it can be really different when you're eating tomato pesto soup. A friend of mine cooked it once and it was delicious. I've been meaning to try the recipe for awhile now, and I think after reading this I will.

By widget2010 — On Dec 10, 2011

I always thought of pesto as just a different, slightly oilier type of pasta sauce. I never would have thought to use it on pizza or as a salsa. Now I feel like I have way more ideas for cooking with sun dried tomato and pesto in the future.

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt
With a Master's Degree in English from Southeast Missouri State University, Sara Schmidt puts her expertise to use by writing for DelightedCooking, plus various magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She published her own novella and has other literary projects in the works. Sara's diverse background includes teaching children in Spain, tutoring college students, running CPR and first aid classes, and organizing student retreats, reflecting her passion for education and community engagement.
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