Red Pesto Penne Pasta

Red Pesto Penne Pasta

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Adjust Servings:
8 ounces Penne Pasta
1 cup (pasta cooking liquid) Pasta Water
1 large head of Garlic
2 large Fire Roasted Red Peppers (in jar)
0.25 cup, roughly chopped Sun-Dried Tomatoes
0.25 cup Walnuts
0.25 cup Olive Oil
0.5 teaspoon Sea Salt
0.25 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
0.25 teaspoon (or more) Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
0.25 cup (optional) Honey
for garnish, optional Parsley

Red Pesto Penne Pasta

  • 40 minutes
  • Serves 4
  • Easy




Easy, 8-ingredient, vibrant and flavorful red pesto with penne pasta!

I love pesto sauces as you can customize them and combine flavors you might not usually!

Everyone loves a green basil pesto and there’s even white pesto but how about red?

Everyone loves a red sauce right? Tomato sauce can get repetitive and boring, which is why this red pesto is next level!

But you may be asking, what is pesto really?

Pesto is an Italian word that means “to pound” or “to crush”.

The traditional pesto alla genovese, originated in Genoa, the capital city of Liguria, Italy.

It consists of crushed garlic, pine nuts, coarse salt, basil leaves, and hard cheese blended with olive oil.

Most of the time, pesto is made with a mortar and pestle but attempting to make it this way, I quickly got tired and turned to my food processor.

This red pesto penne pasta is made with sweet and smokey red peppers, umami-packed sun-dried tomatoes, nutty and sweet walnuts, and fruity olive oil!

Oh and best of all, it has roasted garlic!

When garlic is roasted in the oven, the cloves turn sweet, soft and caramelized.

I recommend roasting 3 heads of garlic at once, so that you can use extra to spread onto crusty bread!

As I love to add a bit of sweet to my savory, I also add honey to my red pesto, but this ingredient is optional.

If you do not have walnuts on hand, you can also use pecans, sunflower seeds or pine nuts.

This pesto sauce is definitely customizable.

Another important ingredient here is pasta water, so do not drain your pasta cooking liquid!





Roasted The Garlic

Preheat your oven to 425°F.

Slice off the top third of the garlic bulb so that the cloves are exposed.

Place the garlic on top of a sheet of aluminum then drizzle with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and season with 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.

Tightly wrap the aluminum foil so there are no holes.

Place the wrapped garlic on top of a baking sheet and roast at 425°F for 20-30 minutes.

Once removed from the oven, allow the garlic to cool inside the aluminum foil for 10-15 minutes. This will allow the garlic to steam and cook further inside the aluminum foil.

While the garlic steams and cools, cook the pasta.


Cook The Pasta

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Once at a rolling boil, add 2 Tablespoons of salt then drop in the pasta.

Cook 2 minutes shy of the package directions for an al-dente pasta.

Save at least 1 cup of pasta water before you drain the pasta. Do not rinse the pasta.


Toast The Walnuts

While the pasta cooks, toast the walnuts.

Add the walnuts to a dry skillet and toast on a medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Move the walnuts in the skillet every so often so it does not burn.

The walnuts will smell nutty and toasted and have some light brown charr marks once they are done.

Move to a plate to cool slightly.


Get A Food Processor

First, remove the roasted garlic cloves from the skins. You can either use a fork to pierce and pull them out individually or remove the outside layers then squeeze the bottom of the garlic bulb so the cloves pop out of the skins.

Add the fire roasted red peppers to a food processor along with the sun-dried tomatoes, toasted walnuts, roasted garlic, olive oil, salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes.

I also like to add honey but this is optional.



Blend until smooth.

At this stage, you can give the pesto a taste and adjust seasoning if needed then blend again.



Add the cooked pasta and red pesto to a large skillet.

Turn the heat to medium-low. Toss to coat the pasta in the pesto well and cook for 2 minutes.

Give the pasta a taste and adjust seasoning if needed.



Serve the pasta in bowls and drizzle with a bit of olive oil and top with fresh herbs like parsley!

Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.


Hi guys, so glad you are here! My food blog is about easy, colorful and mostly healthy recipes. I grew up in Germany and have been in the states since 2002. Currently, I am living in sunny Miami, FL! Please leave me a comment if you have questions or recipe requests and also follow me on social media via @foodbyjonister. Happy cooking and eating!

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