I know I can be a bit preachy but I truly believe in eating as “seasonally” as possible. Of course I make expectations but by eating what’s in season I end up eating the most tasty and delicious food during that time. It is also the most nutritionally dense food and it just feels so right. Eating sun-ripened tomatoes (like my Simple Tomato Salad) in the warm summer sun just tastes so much better than eating tomatoes during a blizzard in the middle of January. I mean who doesn’t want to cozy up to Roasted Pumpkin Soup in the cool autumn breeze wrapped in a cable knit sweater.
However, sometimes I want tomatoes in the winter. I actually want tomatoes all the time and there are ways are figuring it out. During the summer, I canned about 15 quarts of tomatoes…roasted tomatoes, tomato sauce, peeled tomatoes, etc. However, I realize most people do not go all canning crazy during the summer so our next best bet is the sundried tomato.
To satisfy my tomato cravings all winter I like to whip up Rotini with Sundried Tomato Pesto. You can make the pesto in big batches and it keeps for months in the fridge and once you make it you’ll find yourself adding it to everything. Eggs, sandwiches, quesadillas, roasted vegetables, pasta, toppings for fish or chicken. In this case I serve it simply with rotini pasta which similar to fusilli–a cute, little, curly corkscrew shape. It’s works perfectly with the sundried tomato pesto because the sauce just nestles itself into the small little ridges and grooves of the pasta. Finish it with some grated Parimigiano Reggiano and it’s a great dish to be enjoyed year-round.
I have a couple of tips and tricks to make this the most flavorful and healthy sundried tomato pesto you’ve ever created. First off, I use sundried tomatoes that are made with no sulfites. That means that they tend to be much darker in color than other sundried tomatoes you may find in the store. Also, they are not stored in oil. You can most definitely use the kind that is stored in oil but it would be a wee bit higher in fat. Either way is totally fine.
So the first step is rehydrating the tomatoes. We want to make sure they are super soft and easily puréed. So I cover the sundried tomatoes with boiling water. That’s correct, the water should be boiling. That’s the first trick. The boiling water really helps to break down and soften the tomatoes versus using warm water. Also, you want to let the tomatoes and cooking liquid cool completely. I usually put the tomatoes and cooking liquid in the fridge to help expedite this process. Do not throw out the cooking liquid! You will use that for the pesto itself.
Secondly, you want to lightly toast your pine nuts. They should not have any dark brown spots because that will make them bitter therefore making your pesto bitter. I actually like to toast my nuts in the toaster oven because I can set the timer for very short intervals so I can keep a watchful eye on how toasty they get. One other important step is you want the nuts to be completely cool! If they are still warm you will end up making pine nut butter and not pesto.
So once you have the re-hydrated tomatoes (completely cool), the cooking liquid (completely cool) and the pine nuts (also completely cool) then you are ready to make your pesto.
In addition to the sundried tomatoes and pine nuts, I also add parsley, basil, Parmigiano Reggiano and extra virgin olive oil. My trick for making the sundried tomato pesto a little healthier is I use the cooled cooking liquid from soaking the tomato to help purée the pesto before adding any olive oil. That way the mixture is pretty much already smooth when I add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, so you don’t have to add an entire cup of olive oil. It’s also a great way to add tons of flavor since the soaking liquid has a great tomato taste.
Once your pesto is puréed then you can throw it in a jar, put it in a fridge and save some for those super rainy days. Or you can boil up some rotini pasta and throw a few tablespoons of your sundried tomato pesto in there. To give the pasta a little more sweetness I also add one tablespoon of tomato paste. I like to buy the kind that comes in a tube so I always have some in my refrigerator.
Lastly, make sure to save some of the pasta cooking water to add to the pasta and pesto to thin it out and help create the sauce. Finish your pasta with a few more sprinklings of Parmigiano Reggiano and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
I’m straight serious though, once your make this sundried tomato pesto you will find yourself putting it on and in everything!
- 1 cup sundried tomatoes, not packed in oil
- ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
- 2 small garlic cloves, finely grated
- 2 tbsp roughly chopped basil
- 2 tbsp roughly chopped parsley
- ½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated, plus more for garnish
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ pound rotini pasta
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cover the sundried tomatoes with 1 cup of boiling water to re-hydrate, let it sit about 20-30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, toast your pine nuts in the oven or in a small sauté pan over low heat until lightly toasted. Allow them to cool completely.
- Once the tomatoes are re-hydrated and the liquid is cool, separate the liquid from the tomatoes. Do not throw the liquid out!
- Place sundried tomato in a small food processor. Add cooled pine nuts, grated garlic, basil, parsley and Parmigiano Reggiano.
- Pulse the food processor a few times until the mixture is combined. Slowly pour in ½ cup of the tomato liquid while the processor is running. Add more liquid if the mixture is not smooth.
- Once the pesto is almost completely smooth slowly add the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add enough salt so the water tastes like the ocean.
- Add your rotini pasta and cook until al dente.
- Drain the pasta and save 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
- Add ¼ cup of sundried tomato pesto and the tomato pasta to the pasta. Add ¼ cup of pasta cooking water at a time to help thin out pesto and create a sauce.
- To garnish, grate some more Parmigiano Reggiano on top and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.