I meeaaannnnn, I know. It looks so good you could just reach through your shiny computer screen and grab a massive fork full. Or five. Or just grab the whole bowl…who are we kidding, no one would say no to a massive bowl of pasta after a long day #amIright? That mouthwatering red “sauce” coating those beautiful little whole grain penne noodles is none other than sun-dried tomato pesto. We use the word pesto preeetttyyy lightly here since there is like 10 basil leaves in the whole recipe, but it has other pesto-y elements that earn this dish its name.
Including some weird ones…like cream cheese. I know, hold the phone – cream cheese in pesto? That’s just weird. And wrong. Buuuuut it’s right. On so many levels. We only add a few tablespoons, and you don’t get any of the cream cheese flavor, but what you do get is an added creamy smoothness that makes the pesto even yummier and makes it coat the pasta even better. Just go with it…don’t be mad.
If I was super legit, I would keep my recipes super authentic and awesome and only be legit Italian when cooking Italian and legit Asian when cooking Asian, etc…Buuttttt I’m all ’bout that flava. If it tastes good, I’m cool with it not being authentic. Can we still be friends?
So what, other than cream cheese, is added to this sun-dried tomato pesto, you ask? I love it when you ask good questions. We’ve got:
- sun-dried tomatoes (duh)
- Parmesan cheese
- olive oil
- cream cheese
- red pepper flakes
Several of these ingredients will look familiar if you are accustomed to the pesto world – the parm, garlic, olive oil, and basil are traditional ingredients. Usually pine nuts are used, but we go with walnuts here instead. Walnuts have a stronger, nuttier flavor, which pairs wonderfully with the sweet sun-dried tomatoes and nutty pasta. The walnuts are actually my favorite part of this entire dish. They add this wonderful flavor and texture. Also – BONUS – they are about an entire paycheck cheaper than pine nuts.
I love you, pine nuts, but daaannggg gurl…why you so espensive?
One key to this recipe is to SAVE YOUR PASTA WATER. For the sake of all the pesto in the world, do not dump that down the drain. It is desperately needed at the end to make this pesto sauce an actual sauce. Pesto is very not-saucy on its own. But when you throw some pasta water in with the pesto and the pasta, the starches from the pasta water form the pesto into a creamy sauce. Also, the pasta water is seasoned, so it adds extra flavor.
This recipe makes a lot of pasta, but the good news? It gets better and better as it sits in your fridge. The pasta soaks up some of that pesto, mellowing it out a bit and giving all those flavors time to marry together. I think it gets better and better as the days pass! And I love recipes like that, because leftovers are lyfe. …