Since I recently gave up on store-bought pesto and started making my own, I decided it is worth at this point getting a little more creative and going beyond fresh basil. Another type of pesto that is quite popular in Italy is pesto rosso, which literally means red pesto, whose main ingredients are (cherry) tomatoes and ricotta cheese. A variation of this is sun-dried tomato pesto. I decided to go for a combination of both.
I am a bit unhappy with the tomatoes I find here in Sweden. They never taste as good as they do in Italy, sorry to say. I’m sure good restaurants have access to great supplies of top quality tomatoes, but as a grocery shopper I’m never met with this opportunity. And even if I were I doubt I’d invest my money on overpriced tomatoes, in all honesty. I eat tomatoes in Sweden, sometimes they’re even quite good, but I remember that in Italy they tasted better. I believe I could make pesto rosso even with the tomatoes I can buy here. But I decided to choose sun-dried tomatoes in oil, instead.
Just sun-dried tomato pesto is not something I’m too crazy about, as to me it always feels like there is some texture missing. So why not combine ricotta with sun-dried tomatoes? So I made sundried tomato-based pesto rosso!
Sun-dried tomato and ricotta pesto
- 30 g walnuts
- 100 g sun-dried tomatoes, drained
- 200 ml olive oil
- 250 g ricotta cheese
- 3 tsp grated Parmigiano
- 1/2 garlic clove
- 1/3 tsp salt
Start by processing the walnuts, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes in the food processor. To facilitate the job, I have added 3 tbsp of the sun-dried tomato oil. I chose to use tomatoes in oil, rather than the dry ones, so that I didn’t have to soak them before use and also because this way I got to use the oil they had been soaked in. For this recipe I used a jar of sun-dried tomatoes in sunflower oil. Olive oil would be preferable, but even sunflower oil was good, as it had picked up the sun-dried tomato flavour. Since this sauce calls for a lot of oil and the jar didn’t contain that much, the rest of the oil I added was olive oil.
Since my food processor is not very powerful, after this first grind I transfered everything to a plastic bowl and continued the job with a hand blender. Add the rest of the oil to the the sun-dried tomato and walnut mash. Then add the ricotta cheese, the salt and grated parmesan. Blend it all until smooth.
Pasta al pesto rosso
You might be surprised that this pesto is somewhat thick. The trick is to thin it with some cooking water from the pasta. Since I used a whole jar of sun-dried tomatoes and a whole package of ricotta for this batch, I ended up making a lot of pesto. So before I prepped some of it for my lunch, I put half of it in a tupperware and stored it in the freezer for later use. It’s always better to freeze it this way ad thin it later, when actually using it.
I brought back from Italy a package of artisanal pasta from the region of Calabria, in the south of the country, called fileja tropeani. It was a gift we got from a friend who comes from that area. I had decided to save it for a special sauce, as it was too good to just eat with a can of tuna. Nothing against pasta with tuna, but these fileja tropeani deserved better. Home-made fancy pesto – sundried tomato pesto rosso with ricotta – sounded more like it.
As I mentioned before, the trick about pesto is to thin it with some of the pasta’s cooking water. Always go for that water, if possible, rather than just boiling water, as it is enriched with pasta starch and salt. As for quantities, it depends on how much pesto needs to be thinned. It shouldn’t be too liquid, as you want it to properly coat your pasta, so just go one tbsp at a time. Once thinned it should have a nice creamy texture. This trick of using some boiling water from the pasta is good also for giving store-bought pesto a better texture. It alsoworks well give your sauce a better temperature before adding it to your cooked pasta. Warming up a sauce is preferred, it is never good to add a cold sauce straight from the jar. But if you don’t have the possibility to warm it up adding the pasta boiling water will help.
I’m happy I saved this special pasta for a good sauce. I just realised that “sauce” is the anagram of “cause” as for a moment I had read I saved the pasta for a good cause. Well I guess this is also true to some extent. It’s what it deserved, and what made it taste even better.