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The perfect sun-kissed pesto

Add variety to your weekday dinners with this sun-dried tomato pesto recipe

The rich, sweet sun-dried tomatoes, combined with the earthy, peppery basil, pack a zesty punch.
The rich, sweet sun-dried tomatoes, combined with the earthy, peppery basil, pack a zesty punch.

During my first Trader Joe’s run of the school year, I haphazardly tossed various vegetables, fruits and snacks into my cart, not realizing the importance of preparing my weekday menu in advance. I was accustomed to dining hall dinners and severely underestimated the planning needed to cook appetizing, cost-effective meals seven days a week. After looking through my fridge and freezer for a few minutes — stumped about what to cook — my eyes landed on my saving grace — a container of homemade sun-dried tomato pesto, prepared two weeks earlier. Since the pesto can be stored in the freezer for around a month and thawed out later, it looked as though I just made it.

With my random selection of groceries, this red pesto saved me from having to take another trip to the store. It also offered many easy dinner and lunch options, and I quickly realized sun-dried tomato pesto makes the ideal refrigerator staple. It infuses a burst of freshness into meals, requires no cooking expertise and pairs perfectly with virtually anything. 

Prep time: 15 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 1 8.5 oz. jar of sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 cup basil
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves roughly chopped garlic
  • ¼ cup chopped almonds
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste

Instructions:

  1. In a blender or food processor, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, basil, Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt and almonds.
  2. Switch your blender or food processor on at the lowest setting.
  3. Gradually add in the olive oil and increase speed until you have reached a thick, smooth consistency.

The final product is incredible. The rich, sweet sun-dried tomatoes, combined with the earthy, peppery basil, pack a zesty punch. The tomatoes also add an umami element to the pesto and perfectly complement the heartiness of the garlic and parmesan. Truth be told, after trying this recipe, it’s impossible to go back to the traditional, basil-only pesto. 

But the best part about this pesto is that it can be paired with anything. My go-to dinner using sun-dried tomato pesto is an easy pasta salad — perfect for when I need to use up all my produce at the end of the week. I simply cut up cucumbers, bell peppers, baby tomatoes, avocado and mozzarella cheese, toss them with the pesto, any leftover greens and rotini and add a little olive oil to top it off.

Additionally, marinating protein — whether it’s chicken, tofu or salmon — with the sun-dried tomato pesto before popping it in an air fryer or oven is a delicious option. You can enjoy it with rice, quinoa, couscous or other starches of your choice, resulting in a fast, balanced dinner. I also use the pesto in my lunches to elevate sandwiches, eggs and avocado toast. 

This smooth red pesto will save you time and energy this semester — it offers convenience without sacrificing taste. With a fridge stocked with sun-dried tomato pesto, you'll have endless meal options to choose from all year long. 

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