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.
Um. You guys. Let’s transition and talk about life for a few minutes. This has been one of the most challenging weeks of my life. If you are reading this and you’ve had babies, then the following two words will explain perfectly the chaos of my week:
SLEEP. REGRESSION. Sleep regreeesssiioonnnnn.
Let me put it this way. If I am ever kidnapped and bad people are trying to pull secrets from me that are of the upmost importance to our national security? I will hold onto that information with one exception. If they could somehow induce a sleep regression phase into my child and threatened me with that, SORRY ‘MURICA, your secrets are gone.
Now, I don’t know the science behind sleep regressions, but here’s basically how they work. YOUR KID NEVER SLEEPS AGAIN EVER. That’s a slight exaggeration, but not huge. Let me break down my week for ya since this lovely little phase of life began.
It takes about 15 minutes to get to get Ford to fall sleep, during which he’s fussing a little bit. No biggie. Whatevs. Finally get him to sleep, and 15 minutes later he’s up again. Repeat process ALL DAY LONG. Oh, you want to put him down for his nap so you can get something done? LOLOLOL. Yeah right. And then at night, if he hasn’t gotten a few really good naps in (we’re talkin’ an hour minimum), then it takes literally all night to get him to fall asleep and stay asleep. And then instead of sleeping through the night like the wonderful sleeper he was pre-this-week, he wakes up every hour or two.
SO – this started on Monday. It is now Friday. The first few days were basically pure hell while I was trying to figure this all out. Here is what I’ve learned…during this sleep regression phase, until it is over, I just have to hold Ford for all his naps and be super proactive in keeping him asleep. At night, he just has to sleep with me. I know there are some MAJOR anti-co-sleeping feels out there, and usually he sleeps in a bassinet next to my bed, but in this little sleep regression phase, it’s either sleep with me or we are LITERALLY up all night long. Like this past Tuesday, for example, I spent five straight hours trying to get him to go to sleep and stay asleep in his bassinet before just giving up and pulling him in bed with me at midnight.
Anyyyywho, now that we have figured out this whole process a little bit (I use the term “figured out” VERY LIGHTLY), it’s not quite so crazy, but I swear, on Tuesday and Wednesday, I wasn’t sure I was going to survive this phase. Google says that sleep regressions last 2-6 weeks…PLEASE GOD let it be on the 2 week end versus the 6 week…
But this pasta makes it all better 👅.
This recipe has 10 smart points per serving!Print
Penne with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
This nutty whole grain pasta is coated in a delicious sun-dried tomato pesto that gets better and better as it sits in your fridge!
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 10 mins
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 8 servings 1x
- 1 pound whole wheat penne pasta
- 3 oz bag sun-dried tomatoes – about 1 cup (not the jarred kind that are packed in oil – I find the bagged kind where the salad toppings and bagged nuts are in my grocery store)
- 3/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons reduced fat cream cheese
- 8–10 basil leaves
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Cook your pasta according to package instructions. Make sure you season your pasta water with salt! It should taste like the ocean. Make sure to reserve about a cup of pasta water when or before you drain the pasta!
- To make the pesto, combine all ingredients into a food processor (tomatoes, parm, lemon, garlic, olive oil, cream cheese, basil, walnuts, and pepper flakes). Season with salt and pepper and pulse until combined. Add 3/4 cup water and turn your food processor on until the pesto is very smooth. Add more water if needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper
- Stir your pesto into your drained pasta with about 3/4 cup of your reserved pasta water (this smooths things out and makes the pesto into a sauce for the pasta). Add more pasta water if needed
- Garnish with extra basil and parmesan cheese
Sun-dried tomatoes have a unique sweet flavor to them. If this is too much for you, let everything sit for a day in the fridge. The pesto absorbs into the pasta a bit, and it mellows everything out big time. I think this is delicious right away, but I think it gets even better as it sits in fridge!
If you can only find the jarred sun-dried tomatoes that are packed in oil, drain the oil off as best as you can, and use a cup of the tomatoes. Omit the olive oil from the pesto. The nutrition info will be a bit different if you go this route!
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Calories: 288
- Sugar: 5 g
- Sodium: 168 mg
- Fat: 15 g
- Carbohydrates: 31 g
- Fiber: 5 g
- Protein: 11 g
- Cholesterol: 7 mg
If you make this or any of my other recipes, be sure to Instagram it and hashtag #thegarlicdiaries!
In the mood for more yummy pesto recipes? Check these out: