Tomato pesto or Sicilian pesto is a variation of Italian basil pesto made with typical Sicilian ingredients like ricotta, tomatoes, pine nuts or almonds, and fresh basil.

Sicilian pesto is delicious because it uses fresh ricotta, which adds a creamy texture and wonderful flavor.

This tomato pesto recipe is easy to make in 5 minutes in a food processor or blender. Toss it with your favorite pasta for an outstanding, family-friendly weeknight dinner.

red pesto in a bowl with pine nuts and fresh basil

Dietary Note: this recipe is suitable for a vegetarian and gluten-free diet. You can make it vegan by using vegan ricotta and vegan parmesan cheese.

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What is tomato pesto?

red tomato pesto in a bowl with a silver spoon

Tomato pesto is a Sicilian variation of basil pesto where pesto ingredients such as basil, pine nuts, olive oil, and parmesan cheese are combined with traditional Sicilian ingredients like fresh ricotta and tomatoes.

The result is a creamy, cheesy, and perfectly balanced tomato pesto recipe that you can serve with your favorite pasta shape—casarecce pasta is the most traditional.

red tomato pesto in a white bowl

To make this recipe vegan, substitute our homemade vegan ricotta and vegan parmesan for their non-vegan counterparts.

Similar recipes: sun-dried tomato pesto, red pepper pesto, kale pesto.

Ingredients and substitutions for tomato pesto

Ingredients for red pesto

Quantities are in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.

Basil

Fresh basil leaves are the main ingredients in Sicilian pesto. The basil flavor is exquisite with ricotta, parmesan cheese, and tomatoes.

Tomatoes

Use fresh tomatoes that are just ripe. We recommend vine tomatoes and roma tomatoes.

If you are looking to use sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, here’s our sun-dried tomato pesto recipe.

Ricotta

Fresh cow ricotta is what’s used in the traditional Sicilian pesto recipe. The freshest, the better.

You can substitute vegan ricotta for regular ricotta.

Grated Parmesan cheese

You can use grated Parmesan cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, or a vegan parmesan.

Pine nuts

Substitute almonds or walnuts for pine nuts.

Extra virgin olive oil

Substitute regular olive oil for extra virgin olive oil.

Garlic

Garlic is optional. Fresh garlic is best. A small garlic clove is more than enough.

Salt and Black pepper

We recommend sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. To make the pesto a little spicy, add a pinch of red pepper flakes.

How to make tomato pesto

US cups + grams measurements in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.

Cut the tomatoes in half and discard their seeds and juice with a paring knife or teaspoon.

removing the seeds from vine tomatoes with a pairing knife

Add all the ingredients to a food processor: tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, ricotta, grated parmesan, salt, black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil.

basil, cheese, pine nuts and tomatoes in a food processor

Blend for 1 minute or until creamy. You might need to scrape the sides of the food processor once or twice.

blended red tomato pesto

Taste and adjust for salt before serving with your favorite pasta.

red tomato pesto in a Mediterranean bowl with basil

Serving suggestions

In Sicily, tomato pesto is traditionally served with casarecce pasta, a dry Italian pasta available in most supermarkets from Italian brands like Barilla, De Cecco, Rummo, and La Molisana.

Creamy red tomato pasta in a white bowl

To serve tomato pesto with pasta, cook the pasta al dente (with a bite), reserve a cup of pasta water, drain the pasta, then add it to a large mixing bowl.

Add a generous dollop or two of tomato pesto and toss well. Add a few tablespoons of reserved pasta water if the pesto is too dense.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, and basil leaves on top.

Other pasta types you can serve with tomato pesto are:

Of course, this easy pesto recipe is also delicious as a spread on crostini or as a filling for a sandwich.

Variations

Sun-dried tomato pesto

Sundried Tomato Pesto with oil

Sun-dried tomato pesto, or pesto rosso, is a richer and bolder alternative to pesto made with fresh tomatoes. You can make it with sun-dried tomatoes in oil, walnuts, parmesan, olive oil, water, garlic, salt, pepper, and basil.

Here’s the recipe for sun-dried tomato pesto.

Red pepper pesto

red pepper pesto

This is another delicious red pesto, but this time, it’s made with red peppers blended with garlic, almonds, pine nuts, parmesan or nutritional yeast, salt, sun-dried tomatoes in oil, and olive oil.

Here’s the recipe for red pepper pesto.

More pesto recipes

Storage & Make Ahead

Make ahead: tomato pesto is excellent for meal prep as it keeps well in the fridge and freezer.

Refrigerator: Transfer the pesto to a clean, airtight container or jar and cover it with a thin layer of olive oil. Close the jar and keep it in the fridge for 3 days.

Freezer: Transfer the tomato pesto to a small jar, close it, and freeze for up to 1 month. You can also freeze it in smaller portions, such as ice cube trays.

Thaw and reheat: Defrost in the refrigerator. Toss with a warm pasta.

red tomato pesto in a blue bowl with a silver spoon

More ricotta recipes

More tomato recipes

red pesto in a blue bowl with a silver spoon

Tomato Pesto (Sicilian Pesto)

By: Nico Pallotta
5 from 1 vote
Tomato pesto or Sicilian pesto is a variation of Italian basil pesto made with typical Sicilian ingredients like ricotta, tomatoes, pine nuts or almonds, and fresh basil.
This Sicilian pesto recipe is special because it uses fresh ricotta, which adds a creamy texture and wonderful flavor.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 8 people
Course: Dressing & Sauces
Cuisine: Italian, Sicilian

Equipment

  • Food processor or blender

Ingredients

  • 1 pound vine tomatoes substitute Roma tomatoes
  • cup ricotta cheese about 5½ ounces / substitute vegan ricotta
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese about 3 ounces / substitute vegan parmesan
  • cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 heaping cup fresh basil leaves about 1 ounce
  • 4 tablespoons pine nuts substitute almonds
  • 1 small garlic clove optional
  • ¾ teaspoon salt or more to taste

Serving suggestions

  • 12 ounces casarecce pasta / that's enough for 4 people / or another type

Instructions 

  • Cut 1 pound vine tomatoes in half and discard their seeds and juice.
    removing the seeds from vine tomatoes with a pairing knife
  • To a food processor add tomatoes, ⅔ cup ricotta cheese, 1 cup grated parmesan cheese, ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 heaping cup fresh basil leaves, 4 tablespoons pine nuts, 1 small garlic clove, and ¾ teaspoon salt.
    basil, cheese, pine nuts and tomatoes in a food processor
  • Blend for 1 minute or until creamy. You might need to scrape the sides of the food processor once or twice.
    blended red tomato pesto
  • Taste and adjust for salt before serving with your favorite pasta.
    red tomato pesto with pine nuts and hand holding a spoon

MAKE IT A MEAL

  • To serve tomato pesto with pasta, cook 12 ounces casarecce pasta, reserve a cup of pasta water, drain the pasta, then add it to a large mixing bowl.
    Add about half of the tomato pesto and toss well. Add a few tablespoons of reserved pasta water if the pesto is too dense.
    Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, and basil leaves on top.
    Creamy red tomato pasta in a white bowl

Notes

Nutrition information is an estimate for 1 serving of tomato pesto out of 8 without pasta.
STORAGE & MAKE AHEAD
Make ahead: tomato pesto is excellent for meal prep as it keeps well in the fridge and freezer.
Refrigerator: Transfer the pesto to a clean, airtight container or jar and cover it with a thin layer of olive oil. Close the jar and keep it in the fridge for 3 days.
Freezer: Transfer the tomato pesto to a small jar, close it, and freeze for up to 1 month. You can also freeze it in smaller portions, such as ice cube trays.
Thaw and reheat: Defrost in the refrigerator. Toss with a warm pasta.
ALSO ON THIS PAGE

Nutrition

Calories: 202kcal, Carbohydrates: 5g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 18g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 9g, Trans Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 19mg, Potassium: 216mg, Dietary Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 847IU, Vitamin B6: 0.1mg, Vitamin C: 9mg, Vitamin E: 2mg, Vitamin K: 29µg, Calcium: 144mg, Folate: 16µg, Iron: 1mg, Manganese: 1mg, Magnesium: 27mg, Zinc: 1mg
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Nico and Louise in the kitchen

Hi! We are Nico & Louise

Welcome to The Plant-Based School, a food blog with easy, tasty, and wholesome recipes.

Our aim is to help you and your family eat more veggies through delicious recipes with simple ingredients.

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