Red Pesto Pasta in bowls on a counter

Pesto and pasta is one of those food combinations that is, quite simply, a match made in heaven. Although red pesto typically lives in the shadows of its more popular cousin, Pesto Alla Genovese (green pesto). Once you’ve tried this red pesto pasta you’ll realise there is no going back – earthy, delicious and quick, this is a super easy meal to pull together any night of the week.

What is red pesto?

Red pesto differs from green pesto in a few ways. Sundried tomatoes are used as the base of this sauce (giving it that rustic red hue) with the addition of the standard ‘pesto’ ingredients including basil, pine nuts and pesto.

The result is a beautifully rich and earthy flavour which is the perfect accompaniment to pasta. I’ve included instructions below for making it from scratch at home (trust me, it takes mere minutes), but you can also buy it ready-made from the supermarket.

Red pesto pasta in a bowl with red pesto in a jar

Other uses for Red Pesto

If you make this from scratch I strongly advise you to double up the recipe. It’s an extremely versatile sauce that can be used to add extra flavour and depth to a variety of dishes.

Try tossing it through some roasted vegetables for a quick and easy way to jazz up your dinner. Alternatively, smother it on some chicken breast and serve it up with any of the following:

Ingredients & Substitutions

For a list of ingredients with measurements, jump to the printable recipe card.

Red Pesto Pasta Ingredients
  • Red pesto – ingredients are listed below to make at home, or you can check out this full red pesto recipe. If you’re in a rush you can absolutely buy a ready-made sauce though.
  • Chicken breast – skinless and boneless. Or you can switch for some green beans, mushrooms, roasted red pepper or broccoli for a vegetarian option.
  • Basil – fresh leaves work best here
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Parmesan – or any Italian hard cheese can work, such as pecorino
  • Pasta – I like to use farfalle for this recipe, but you can use any pasta you choose.

Recipe Tips

There are a few things you can do to elevate your humble pasta dinner from delicious to truly exquisite:

  • Pasta water! If you’ve never used this before you are missing out. Simply take a little of the pasta water out before draining and add to the sauce. The starch in the water will help to emulsify things – so basically the sauce will really cling to the pasta.
  • Use fresh cheese when grating over pasta. Pre-grated varieties are coated in additives to stop clumping, which also stops it from melting properly.
  • To get extra juicy chicken pan fry over high heat so you get a deep sear and goldenness on each side. Leave to rest for 5 minutes before slicing as this helps the juices redistribute through the meat, making it extra tender.

How to make it

For more detailed steps jump to the printable recipe card.

Red Pesto pasta recipe steps
  1. Boil a pan of water and heat the olive oil in a frying pan/skillet.
  2. Pan fry the chicken breast in the frying pan/skillet until golden on each side and cooked through. Set aside, covered, to rest
  3. While the chicken is resting, boil the pasta and then a few minutes before the pasta is ready place the frying pan/skillet back on the heat and then add the cherry tomatoes.
  4. Drain the pasta, retaining a little of the water. Add the pasta to the frying pan/skillet and then add the pesto. Add a little of the pasta water and toss everything together.
  5. Tear in the basil and grate over the parmesan and serve.

If you are looking for more great pasta recipes then check out:

Products that work well for this recipe:

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Red Pesto Pasta in bowls on a counter

Red Pesto Pasta

  • Author: caroline
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 1 1x


Switch up your usual pesto and pasta dinner with this amazing red pesto pasta! Quick, easy and so delicious. Choose to use ready-made red pesto or make it from scratch. 

The default recipe serves one


  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 chicken breast, skinless and boneless (around 125g / 4.5oz), cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 85g pasta, such as farfalle (pictured)
  • 68 cherry tomatoes (around 100g / 3.5oz), halved
  • 46 fresh basil leaves
  • 15g / 0.5oz freshly grated parmesan

For the red pesto (alternatively use 2 tbsp of ready-made red pesto)

  • 25g sundried tomatoes (use the type in oil, not fully dehydrated ones)
  • 23 large fresh basil leaves
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 10g / 1 tbsp whole pine nuts
  • 10g / 1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp olive oil


  1. Bring a pan of heavily salted water to a boil and heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a frying pan/skillet.
  2. Pat dry the chicken breast with kitchen towel and season one side with salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the hot oil, seasoned side down, and leave to sear for 5-6 minutes. Season the other side of the breast and flip it over and cook for a further 5 minutes. Continue to cook until the inside of the meat is 75C/165F. 
  3. Transfer the chicken to a plate and cover it with a  little foil. Leave to rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Leave the frying pan/skillet within reach as you’ll use it again. 
  4. Add the pasta to the boiling water and set a time for the time indicated on the packet. 
  5. 5 minutes before the pasta is ready add another splash of oil to the frying pan/skillet and place over medium-high heat. Add the cherry tomatoes to the oil and heat through until they start to soften. 
  6. Retain a little of the pasta water and drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the frying pan/skillet with a little of the reserved water and pesto. Toss everything together and add the chicken breast and heat through. Season to taste.
  7. Remove the pasta from the heat. Tear in the basil and grate over the parmesan. Serve and enjoy.


    1. Grate the parmesan cheese yourself. If you buy pre-grated cheese the additives which are used to stop it from clumping can actually stop it from melting as well
    2. Don’t skip the step to reserve a little of the pasta water – it really helps to get the pesto clinging to the pasta! 
    3. You can substitute the parmesan for another hard cheese, such as pecorino.
    4. Pan sear the chicken over high heat to get a great, deep colour on the surface. 
    5. Resting the chicken will help make it extra tender as it allows the juices to redistribute. 
    6. Fresh basil is a must for this recipe! So don’t be tempted to switch for dried. 
    7. Leftover pesto can be kept in the fridge for 4-5 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Pour oil over the pesto before refrigerating or freezing to prevent air from getting to the sauce and causing browning. 
    • Prep Time: 10 minutes
    • Cook Time: 20 minutes
    • Category: Dinner
    • Method: Hob / Stove
    • Cuisine: Italian


    • Serving Size: 1
    • Calories: 745
    • Fat: 28.6g
    • Carbohydrates: 65g
    • Protein: 48g

    Keywords: pasta, italian, pesto, parmesan, dinner, chicken, quick, easy

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