Slow-roasted Campari Tomato Pesto Pasta with Ricotta

It’s a lovely day when you know dinner is the ultimate in simplicity and rich flavors. And was made ahead over the weekend to splurge on all week. A pile full of slow-roasted Campari tomatoes are blended with a little basil, walnuts and Parmesan to make the best tomato pesto sauce. Toss with some hot pasta, a plop of creamy ricotta and dinner is served! Talk about easy!

black fork twirling tagliatelle with tomato pesto ricotta pasta in a white bowl.
A big happy twirl of tomato pesto tagliatelle…so good!

I am a big fan of roasting tomatoes. Just picked from the garden, they’re bright, acidic and fresh. But toss them in a sheet pan with some olive oil, salt and pepper and slow roast them in the oven and you’ll have the start of something pretty special.

Like this roasted tomato pesto. I make it using the same method I make classic pesto (in the food processor) but call on completely different roster of ingredients.

I think you’re going to like this one!

What makes a great pesto tomato?

A great tomato for pesto is one that was made for roasting. And that actually includes most tomatoes, even mealy or “bad” tomatoes taste better roasted.

Campari tomatoes

My favorite tomatoes for roasting are Campari tomatoes. Also known as tomatoes on the vine or vine-ripened tomatoes, Campari tomatoes are bright red, sweet and are a smallish-medium round fruit packaged with the vine attached. They have fewer seeds and a softer skin. You can typically find packages of Campari tomatoes at Costco, Trader Joe’s and most grocery stores.

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One ingredient this tomato pesto sauce recipe is missing.

white bowl of tomato pesto topped with ricotta and fresh basil.
No garlic pesto but plenty of tomatoes.

Believe it or not, I left out one ingredient when I was testing this recipe. And tbh, neither me nor my taste testers missed it one bit: garlic.

Can it still be pesto without garlic? Despite all the recipes on site with garlic, I say “yes!” because sometimes raw garlic can overwhelm a recipe.

Feel free to add some if you can’t live without it. A few cloves of roasted garlic might be especially good (and I’ll try it and update the post).

Here’s what it has instead.

Ricotta. Specifically, whole milk ricotta. And if you’ve got about 10 minutes or so, make your own ricotta. It’s the dreamy, creamy and one easy cheese to make!

Ingredients for tomato pesto for pasta including tomatoes, parmesan, basil, walnuts and olive oil.
Simple ingredients for an easy roasted Campari tomato pesto

And then in addition to the tomatoes and ricotta, the list is rounded out with:

  • Basil. Just a few leaves are all it takes.
  • Fresh grated Parmesan cheese. I’m a big proponent of fresh grating cheese. Bagged grated and shredded cheeses have a filler to keep the cheese from clumping and it can affect the outcome of the recipe.
  • Good quality olive oil. My favorite is from Tuscany but if that isn’t available to you, there are many good Italian and California olive oils.
  • Walnuts. I used 1/3 of a cup which I might reduce next time to 1/4. I also might try almonds which are a little sweeter.

How to make tomato pesto.

wooden board with cored tomato and uncored tomatoes.
1
knife on cutting board with diced tomatoes.
2
  1. Use a tomato corer or small knife to remove the core from the tomatoes.
  2. Chop the tomatoes into a large chop.
diced tomatoes on sheet pan seasoned salt and pepper for roasting.
3
slow roasted tomatoes on a sheet pan.
4
  1. Add the tomatoes to a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Season with kosher salt and a few twists of black pepper.
  2. Roast the tomatoes on a sheet pan for 1 hour until caramelized and sweet.
roasted tomatoes, fresh basil, parmesan cheese, walnuts in food processor.
5
Finished roasted tomato pesto in food processor
6
  1. Add the ingredients to the food processor and pulse 10-12 times. Pour in the olive oil in a slow stream while the processor is running and keep an eye.
  2. You want a thick pesto as shown here.

Make ahead

If you’ve made the pesto ahead of time, then bring it to room temperature before tossing with the hot pasta. Doing this will help it coat the pasta evenly instead of clumping.


Why slow roasting tomatoes is better than high heat.

Low heat and a slow roasting time allow the tomatoes to caramelize like candy and develop a ton of flavor. Sure, you can use a high heat and less time but the tomatoes won’t develop that intense rich flavor.

Best pasta for roasted tomato pesto.

Tagliatelle. It’s not secret that tagliatelle has become one of my favorite pastas. It works so well in this tagliatelle bolognese recipe and makes twirling up a forkful of tomato pesto fun.

Orecchiette. Not as well known or popular, orecchiette pasta (known as “little ears” because that’s what the shape resembles), has the best pocket for pesto to hide in.

Rotini. The twisted and twistier the better. This was my favorite shape as a kid because rotini holds lots of parmesan cheese.

Tips for perfect pesto…every time

close up of fork twirling tomato pesto with tagliatelle.

When making pesto with a food processor, use the pulse button only. This will give you the texture you want and more control over the finished pesto. Just turning the machine on allows you to lose track of time and pesto can go from sauce to mush pretty quickly!

Stir in the ricotta at the end or right before serving with the hot pasta. This helps make a creamy sauce and won’t dilute the flavor of the pesto.

Don’t dump the olive oil in. Pour it in a stream into the bowl as you pulse the machine. You might not need all of it and that’s ok!

Always add the olive oil last. This allows you to control the texture.

Taste and taste a second time for seasoning.

Serving, make ahead and storage.

Serving ideas

Make ahead. Can be made up to 2 days ahead for best quality.

Storage

  • in an airtight, resealable container for up to 5 days.
  • Tomato pesto can be frozen and defrosted at room temperature or in the fridge overnight.

Made this recipe?

I’d love it if you’d share your review and leave a star rating and comment!


5 from 1 vote

Slow-roasted Campari Tomato Pesto Pasta with Ricotta

It's a lovely day when you know dinner is the ultimate in simplicity and rich flavors. And was made ahead over the weekend to splurge on all week. A pile full of slow-roasted Campari tomatoes are blended with a little basil, walnuts and Parmesan to make the best tomato pesto sauce. Toss with some hot pasta, a plop of creamy ricotta and dinner is served! Talk about easy!
Prep Time:5 minutes
Cook Time:1 hour
Total Time:1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 4
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Ingredients
 

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325˚.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes to a sheet pan and toss with 2 T of olive oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper.
    Roast in the oven on a middle rack for 1 hour until caramelized and golden. Toss halfway through if needed. Cool completely.
    6 caprese tomatoes, ¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • To the bowl of a food processor (not mini), add the roasted tomatoes, basil leaves, and walnuts. Pulse about 10-12 times until the basil leaves are chopped.
    8 fresh whole basil leaves, ¼ cup walnuts
  • While the processor is running, pour the olive oil in a small stream, keeping an eye on the pesto. You don’t want it liquefied or too wet but a thin paste. You can always add more oil.
  • Stir in the parmesan cheese. Taste and add more salt and pepper as need
    ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Cook the tagliatelle according to the package directions and reserve about ½ cup of pasta water. Toss the pesto with the cookied pesto, adding some reserved pasta water.
    Top the pasta with plops of ricotta and toss together to make a creamy sauce. Add more parmesan and seasoning as needed and a garnish of fresh basil.
    ½ lb tagliatelle pasta

Notes

Food processor pesto tips:
  • Use the pulse button only. This will give you the texture you want and more control over the finished pesto.
  • Pour the olive oil in a stream into the bowl as you pulse/run the machine. No dumping – you might not need all of it and that’s ok!
  • Stir in the ricotta at the end or right before serving with the hot pasta. This helps make a creamy sauce and won’t dilute the flavor of the pesto..
Course: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Lori Murphy
Did you make this recipe? Tag @josieandnina or tag #josieandnina!

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4 Comments

    1. I’ve already started 😊 I have two and they are coming in the next week or two. If you’re on my mailing list, you’ll hear about them first.