Roasted tomato basil pesto pasta is a simple yet satisfying meal! Sweet cherry tomatoes, walnuts, parmesan cheese and anchovies create an irresistible sauce.
Calling all of you PASTA lovers! I’m pretty sure that’s most of us, who doesn’t like a piping hot bowl of al dente noodles and sauce? My husband Jason is half Italian, so you know we have a weekly pasta night at our house.
I’ve been trying to find new healthier ways to make those meals even more enjoyable with little effort. This recipe for roasted tomato basil pesto pasta is a classic Italian comfort food that you can enjoy any night of the week. Sounds like a good plan right?
Ripe tomatoes don’t need much cooking to make their sweet, earthy flavors shine! I’ve got a few simple culinary techniques that will take a boring plate of pasta and turn it into something to make your grandma proud. I’ve got some big shoes to fill! I know you’re ready, let’s get that water boiling and throw that apron on shall we?
Cherry tomatoes – Mother nature’s candy, that’s good for you!
These little gems get halved, tossed in a little bit of olive oil and salt. Broiled until lightly blistered, after a few minutes of roasting they are BURSTING with flavor! Cooking mellows some of the acids in the tomato, concentrating the sweetness and flavors of the tomato. The perfect base for the pesto!
Instead of adding basil leaves like a traditional pesto sauce, the roasted tomatoes are the star! Pureed in a blender or food processor until just combined with walnuts, garlic, lemon zest, fresh parmesan cheese and olive oil. The nutty, earthy and slightly sweet sauce is divine!
I like to leave little pieces of the toasted walnuts to add some crunchy texture to the pesto sauce. Don’t worry. Large fresh pesto leaves are added to the pasta later.
And now for the SECRET ingredient that takes this pesto to the next level.
Drum roll, please…
ANCHOVIES! Oh yea, if you haven’t used them before today is your lucky day. Don’t be afraid. It is THE game changer to turn your pasta up a notch. You add them in whole, and they melt into the pesto sauce. No need to worry about bones or a ‘fishy” taste. They add this subtle yet elegant, savory flavor.
It’s all about creating layers of flavor to the dish, and this is one easy way to do it. Don’t skip this ingredient. It’s super affordable. Be brave, and try something new! You’ll be happy you did and won’t even notice it’s in there. Pinky swear!
Three things that will make this pasta sensational:
- Toast the walnuts to make them crunchy and bring out the nutty oil notes.
- Broil the tomatoes to enhance the sweetness and deepen the natural flavors.
- Puree the ingredients into a pesto with anchovies to create a luscious sauce.
See, you’re a pasta pro already! Just a few little changes to your regular sauce routine that makes a huge impact on taste.
Wait no longer, grab a fork, it’s time to dig in! This light and flavor pasta is satisfying as it. However, you could add some chicken or shrimp if you need a little extra protein. If you want a comforting meaty sauce, give my bolognese pasta a try. What’s your favorite side dish or beverage to serve with a big bowl of pasta?
What are ways to use canned or jarred anchovies?
Once you’ve discovered these teeny culinary delights, you can unlock the magical flavor power of the salted anchovy. They add this deep umami and savory flavor without leaving a strong fishy taste. So they enhance the flavor of any dish in an instant with little effort. The anchovies go through a curing process with lends a bold briny flavor, as well as tenderizes the protein into the fish, so it quickly melts into the dish. You can enjoy them whole on top of some crusty bread with other toppings, add to pizzas, blend into dressing like a kale caesar salad, in a sauce like this roasted tomato pesto or even use it as a rub on meats. Anything you want to add a delicious savory note to, anchovies can give that flavor punch.
- 1 cup walnuts , divided
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes , cut in half
- 1/3 cup olive oil , plus 2 tablespoons
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt , plus more as needed
- 6 anchovies , oil-packed
- 2 cloves garlic , chopped
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes , crushed
- 1/2 ounce Parmesan cheese , grated, plus more for garnish, 1/2 cup
- 1 teaspoon black pepper , freshly ground
- 12 ounces spaghetti , (regular, whole wheat, gluten-free, brown rice noodles)
- 1/2 cup basil leaves , packed
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Add walnuts to a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the center rack of the oven for 8-10 minutes, until slightly darkened, stirring halfway through. Allow to cool.
Heat broiler. In a large bowl combine tomatoes, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add to a rimmed baking sheet. Place sheet in oven about 8 to 10 inches away from the top of the broiler. Cook until tomatoes start to soften and blister, and some liquid has released, about 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside to slightly cool.
In a blender or food processor add anchovies, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and 1/2 ounce of Parmesan cheese. Pulse until finely ground, about 15 seconds. Add 2/3 cup of the toasted walnuts and half of the tomatoes. With the motor running. Stream in 1/3 cup of the olive oil, process until just combined. Taste and season with salt.Add in black pepper and puree for a few more seconds until combined. Transfer pesto to a large bowl.
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, according to manufacturers directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta liquid, then drain the noodles.
Add pasta to the pesto. Add a small amount of the pasta liquid and toss, add more liquid as needed until the sauce coats the pasta. Add basil and remaining tomatoes on top. Divide among bowls and top with parmesan, chopped walnuts, basil, black pepper and a little olive oil drizzle if desired. Enjoy!
1) The pesto can be made up to a day in advance.
Recipe inspired by Bon Appetit.