I grow a huge pot of basil every summer, and one of my favorite uses is homemade pesto.  If there is any basil left in my giant pot at the end of the summer, I make as many batches as I can and freeze them (without the cheese) for the cold winter months ahead.

Typically, I make classic basil pesto, but I thought the sun dried tomatoes would be a nice change of pace, and they were.  The tomatoes added a nice sweetness and richness to the sauce.  I used the ones that weren’t packed in oil, but if you have the oil packed ones on hand, you could use those as well.  To use the oil packed ones, I would drain them well and hold the oil in the recipe at 9 tablespoons or leave the oil packed tomatoes un-drained reduce the olive oil proportionally with the oil in the un-drained sun dried tomatoes.

This is an overhauled Cooks Illustrated recipe, which I typically am completely against, but I made some time-saving modifications that I don’t think impact the final product.  Toasting the garlic may seem a little weird, but it helps to tame down the raw garlic bite that can sometimes be  too overpowering or lingering after the fact.


Basil & Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated 
Makes enough for 1 pound of pasta
¼ cup pine nuts , toasted    
3 medium cloves garlic , unpeeled 
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes           
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves (optional)     
9 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 salt         
¼ cup finely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan       
Ground black pepper
1 pound of shaped pasta


Toast the nuts and garlic in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until just golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes ; set aside. Let the garlic cool slightly, then peel, and chop.

Place the basil and parsley (if using) in a salad spinner basket, rinse and drain.  Smash basil in hands to bruise the leaves.  Spin dry.  Alternately, if you don’t have a salad spinner, you could roll up the leaves in a dish towel and shake dry after washing.

Place ingredients in food processor and process until smooth, stopping as necessary to scrape down the sides of the bowl, about  1 minute . Stir in the Pecorino and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to toss with pasta.

When pasta is finished cooking, reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water, and drain.  Mix pasta with pesto and 1/4 cup of reserved water.  Toss.  Add more water to reach desired consistency.  Serve with cheese to pass if desired.


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5 Responses to Basil & Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

  1. Russ says:

    I found this to be spicy strong. Is there a way the spicy taste can be toned down a little?

  2. Darlene Proctor Wendlng says:

    Thank you for your pesto – I would add even more garlic, basil and sun-dried tomatoes, Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese and extra virgin olive oil – and sime times capers as I love all it! Thank you again!

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