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Quick & Easy Tomato Pesto (No Cook Tomato Sauce!)

This flavor-packed fresh tomato pesto comes together in minutes! Toss it with cooked pasta for a quick and easy weeknight dinner (or check out the other serving suggestions in the Tips below). The pesto is thickened with toasted sliced almonds, which lend a wonderful nutty flavor. To toast the almonds, bake them in a 350˚F (175˚C) oven, stirring occasionally, until they’re fragrant and light golden, about 3-5 minutes. You can also use toasted pine nuts or hazelnuts for a different flavor profile. The tomato pesto itself is vegan, although feel free to blend in ¼-½ cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, if you'd like.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: no cook tomato sauce, sicilian pesto recipe, tomato pesto recipe
Servings: 4 -6 people

Equipment

  • Food processor

Ingredients

  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 pound grape tomatoes
  • ½ cup (lightly packed) basil leaves
  • ½ cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted and cooled
  • teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

For serving (optional)

  • 1 pound tubular pasta, such as penne or rigatoni (gluten free or regular)
  • 2 ounces Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, for shaving
  • ½ cup torn basil leaves

Instructions

Make the tomato pesto

  • In a food processor with the motor running, drop the garlic clove through the feed tube to chop. Add the tomatoes, basil, almonds and red pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper. Process to a coarse paste. With the motor running, drizzle the olive oil through the feed tube until incorporated. Season with more salt and pepper to taste. Do Ahead: The tomato pesto can be transferred to an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Tomato pesto pasta

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season the water generously with salt, and cook the pasta until al dente according to the package directions.
  • Transfer the pasta to a large bowl and add the tomato pesto. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Using a vegetable peeler, shave a good amount of cheese over top (omit the cheese for a vegan version). Sprinkle with the torn basil and toss gently to incorporate. Serve the pasta warm or at room temperature, with additional cheese for sprinkling, if you’d like.

Notes

Do Ahead: The tomato pesto can be transferred to an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 2 days.
Tips:
  • You’ll need a food processor to make this no cook tomato sauce, or you can use a Vitamix blender (although the sauce will be smoother and less like a pesto). 
  • Be sure to season the pasta and the pesto with plenty of salt and pepper. It’s important for flavor (you might need more than you need). 
  • If the pesto tastes a bit bitter (depending on the sweetness of your tomatoes), add a pinch or two of sugar to taste.
  • I love this sauce with Italian Pecorino Romano, which is a salty, sharp sheep’s milk cheese that pairs brilliantly with the sweetness from the sauce. You could also use Parmigiano Reggiano, which is a milder and sweeter. I prefer to shave the cheese with a vegetable peeler instead of grating it, because you get a pop of flavor and texture with each bite (when you grate cheese, the flavor and texture is lost).
  • You can omit the cheese for a vegan version!
  • While you can toss the pesto with pasta for an easy dinner, it’s also fabulous spooned over grilled vegetables, chicken or fish. For an elegant appetizer, slather the pesto over toasted crostini and top with shaved cheese and fresh basil.