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Pesto pasta is a very popular Italian dish that people rave about. What they might not know is that the typical green, pesto is actually pesto alla Genovese, meaning it’s a sauce that comes from the area near Genoa, Italy. This recipe for “red pesto” comes from much farther south: Sicily.

Sicilian cuisine is typically characterized by more spice than northern cuisine and this sauce is no exception. Made mostly of plum tomatoes, with a touch of basil, nuts and red pepper flakes, this sauce tastes delicious as an entree with pasta or as an aperitivo with some crusty bread. Switch gears a little with your pasta routine and try this sauce you’ll be raving about it long after you’ve cleaned your plates!

Sicilian Pesto Sauce

Serves 4-6


  • 4 large plum tomatoes (or 1/2 can San Marzano’s whole tomatoes)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts or peeled almonds
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • extra-virgin olive oil, to taste
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and blanch the tomatoes for 30-45 seconds.
  2. Remove from water using a slotted spoon, peel, de-seed and chop tomatoes.
  3. Place nuts, garlic and red pepper in food processor and pulse into finely chopped.
  4. Add tomatoes, basil, cheese, salt and pepper, and pulse until you have a wet paste.
  5. Drizzle in olive oil until mixture is smooth and creamy.
  6. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  7. Serve with freshly cooked pasta or with a loaf of crusty, Italian bread.

Recipe adapted from Wednesday Chef