Basil-rich pesto Genovese may be the pesto Americans know best, but there’s an entire family of similarly simple Italian sauces, all easy ways to add bold, fresh flavor to a meal. And not all of them require bushels of fresh herbs.
After all, pesto is defined not by its ingredients, but by how it is made—the word itself is derived from “pestare,” which simply means to pound, traditionally with a mortar and pestle.
Many rich, full-flavored pestos can be made with nothing more than a handful of pantry staples plucked from the cupboard. For example, Sicily’s vibrant pesto rosso, a bright yet deeply savory sauce made from sun-dried tomatoes.
In this version of pesto rosso, just a few high-impact ingredients yield a complex, layered sauce that is both bright and rich. Tangy sun-dried tomatoes are blended with the vegetal sweetness of jarred roasted red peppers, salty-savory pecorino Romano cheese and pungent garlic, while pine nuts (or almonds) and olive oil lend richness and body.
For extra speed, we toss everything straight into the food processor (the modern stand-in for the traditional mortar and pestle), blitzing them into a sauce while the noodles cook. Presto, pesto.