This authentic Sicilian tomato pesto rosso (pesto alla Trapanese) is a creamy pesto sauce made with fresh tomatoes you can serve with pasta. This Pesto alla Siciliana is a great alternative to the traditional basil Pesto Genovese, and it is such an easy recipe ready in just 2 minutes. It is made by blending fresh tomatoes into a smooth, luscious sauce with basil, pecorino, and extra virgin olive oil, no peeling or cooking. Instead of pine nuts, this tomato pesto pasta salad is topped with toasted almonds locally grown in Sicily.
While the traditional green pesto made with fresh basil is called Pesto alla Genovese as it is originally from Genova, Liguria region, tomato pesto is originally from Trapani, therefore called Sicilian Pesto or Pesto alla Trapanese.
I have seen mostly sun-dried tomato pesto recipes, but the traditional Sicilian pesto recipe is made with fresh ones.
It has a fresh tomato taste and a creamy consistency from the emulsified extra virgin olive oil and the local Pecorino cheese. The flavor is so refreshing, and it is very easy to make. It only takes 2 minutes; no need to cook or peel the tomatoes.
Homemade pesto is so much better than the store-bought varieties of sun dried tomato pesto.
What tomatoes to use
To make tomato pesto, you need to use the same long tomato you would use to make fresh tomato sauce. The best ones are the San Marzano, but you can use the Roma if you cannot find them.
You can also use cherry tomatoes or the Sicilian Pachino. Those tomatoes are compact, have less water content, and fewer seeds.
Canned peeled tomatoes will not do as they have been cooked. However, if you cannot find long tomatoes, they can be an alternative, but the sauce will be watery.
The round tomatoes will have too many seeds and the skin will be harder, so they are unsuitable.
For the pesto:
- Fresh tomatoes: San Marzano, Roma, Cherry tomatoes or Pachino
- Fresh basil: Use only fresh basil leaves. Do not use the stem or the flower.
- Pecorino cheese: I use Sicilian Pecorino or Ragusano cheese. You can also use Parmesan cheese Parmigiano Reggiano if you prefer a sweeter taste.
- Extra-virgin olive oil: use a good quality as it is an important component of this pesto.
- Garlic clove: It is optional if you like garlic
The other ingredients:
- Pasta: The best pasta to use with tomato pesto are trofie, linguini, or fusilli (which I use in this recipe). The creamy pesto nicely amalgamates with these types of pasta
- Toasted almonds: to give some crunchiness, toasted almonds are added instead of pinenuts on top. They are local Sicilian produce and are used in many Sicilian recipes.
Check the recipe card for measurements
Making the pesto rosso
- Remove the top of the tomatoes
- Cut the tomatoes into quarters
- Add all ingredients for the pesto into the mixer
- Blend until the pesto becomes creamy and smooth to the desired consistency
Cooking the pasta
- Boil the pasta in salted water
- While the pasta is boiling, you can toast the almonds in a pan or in the oven
- Once the pasta is al dente, drain it
- Mix it with the pesto
- Pour the pasta into the bowl with the pesto
- Stir until all the pasta, and the pesto are completely combined
- You can either serve it immediately while it is still warm or later at room temperature
If you want to cook your pasta like an Italian, you can read the article: 38 Tips On How To Cook Pasta Like An Italian
How to serve it
Because this tomato pesto pasta can be eaten cold, it is perfect for serving at a dinner party or having it on a buffet table.
It is also a great side dish for a summer barbecue, as it goes well with meat or fish.
My boys love it and could have it every day.
Other ways to serve this pesto
Traditionally this tomato pesto is used to season pasta, mostly during the summer when tomatoes are in season.
However, this red pesto sauce goes well with many other dishes. You can use it as a dip or as a Bruschetta topping.
I also like to serve it as a side sauce for grilled meat: beef, chicken, or lamb.
This recipe is included in the challenge: 7 Vegetarian Side-dishes for a Stress-free Party and you can find other side dishes to serve it with.
Storage and equipment
You can make the pesto the day before and store it in the fridge in an airtight container. It keeps well for three days.
It is not suitable for the freezer.
The word Pesto in Italian comes from the verb pestare, to crush.
It indicates a sauce made by crushing fresh herbs, traditionally with a mortar with pestle.
Besides the classic basil pesto or fresh tomato pesto, you can also make sun-dried tomato or arugula pesto for a more intense flavor.
The myth of San Marzano tomatoes
The San Marzano tomato is an Italian PDO product from the Agro Sarnese-Nocerino area, named after the city of San Marzano sul Sarno in the region of Campania.
Its oblong shape and fleshy pulp make it ideal for use in the food processing industry.
It's particularly suitable for quick cooking due to its compactness, less water content, and fewer seeds, allowing a more lively flavor in tomato sauce.
Their seed arrived in Campania in 1770, gifted by the Viceroy of Peru to the King of Naples, and thrived in the fertile volcanic soil.
The huge demand for this type of tomato in the United States cannot be served only by the real PDO San Marzano tomatoes produced in Campania.
The New York Times in the article The Mistery of the San Marzano denounces its counterfeiting:
«Italy is one of the largest producers of tomato paste in the world but not all of this product comes from Italian tomatoes. Tomato paste is imported into Italy from China. Producers have learned to dilute triple concentrate with water, add salt, pasteurize it, and sell it as double tomato paste. But this cannot be labeled as "produced in Italy", even when the tomatoes were produced in China but processed in Italy».
Italian law permits unlabeled tomato cans to be exported, and upon arrival in America, any label can be added to them.
If you want to ensure you buy real San Marzano tomatoes from Agro Sarnese-Nocerino area, read the label carefully:
- If the label is written in Italian, it doesn't mean they are the real thing
- Make sure it says produced in Italy, not processed in Italy
- Look for the PDO certification
- If the price is reasonable, they are not the real thing
Recipes you might also like
If you are looking for more pasta with vegetable recipes, you can check the category: Pasta
Also check the recipes below:
- Pasta Caprese
- The Classic Pesto Recipe Pasta Trofie
- Simple Tomato Sauce Recipe
- Zucchini Recipe Pasta And Ricotta
- Pasta a Frittata: Italian Fried Pasta
- Black Truffle Recipe Pasta
If you are making this Authentic Sicilian Tomato Pesto Rosso Recipe (Fresh) leave your comment below I would like to know which one is your favorite. You can find more delicious ideas if you FOLLOW ME on Facebook, YouTube, or sign up to my newsletter.
📋Authentic Sicilian Tomato Pesto Rosso Recipe (Fresh)
- Remove the top of the tomatoes and cut the tomatoes into quarters6 fresh long tomatoes
- Add the basil leaves1 cup fresh basil leaves
- Add the parmesan cut into cubes¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
- Add salt and extra virgin olive oil1 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt
- Blend until it becomes creamy
- Toast the sliced almonds in a pan
- Serve it on pasta topped with toasted almonds¼ cup chopped toasted almond
- Or serve it on bruschetta or as a side sauce
- The best tomatoes to use are the fresh long ones (Roma or San Marzano type), the same used to make tomato sauce.
- Do not use canned tomatoes
- Do not use round tomatoes, there are too many seeds
- You don't need to cook nor peel the tomatoes
- You can make the pesto the day before and store it in the fridge and it keeps it for 3 days.
- Best served with Trofie pasta, fusilli or Linguini