Why Red Pesto is Better Than Green Pesto

If the grocery store isn't your favorite place, it should be. We're sleuthing for the best back-of-the-box recipes and every Sunday, Posie Harwood from 600 Acres will share our latest find. 

Today: Green pesto is so last summer. Instead, try red pesto and use up all your tomatoes.

Shop the Story

I'm going to stop you before you correct me. The pesto in question here is not a proper, traditional pesto. It's red rather than green. 

I'm not someone to take liberties with my terminology. I value precision of language and general grammatical correctness. When I was seven years old, I noticed that the label on a family-sized bag of UTZ potato chips read "Party Pak!" Embarrassed for their oversight, I nicely wrote a letter to the headquarters: "Dear Sir, I regret to inform you that you misspelled the word pack on your bag. I am seven, you're welcome." I even signed it "Crunchily yours, Posie." My parents still have a copy, and they lord it over me at family gatherings while everyone tears up laughing.

So it bothers me when people call a white bean dip "white bean hummus" or say bruschetta when they really mean crostini. But before you protest that I am doing just that here, I did my research: Pesto comes from the Italian word pestare (to pound). Traditionally it includes pine nuts, basil, and Parmesan, which means we're not veering too far off track here—just dropping the Parmesan and swapping in almonds for pine nuts. 

More: If you, too, are a stickler for terminology, here are 16 other recipes you might find offensive.

Then, add ripe plum tomatoes to turn the pesto red. You barely taste them: It doesn't resemble a tomato sauce so much as a nuttier, smoother pesto. And those Italians are clever—they add in some bitter celery leaves to counter the sweetness of the tomatoes. This pesto recipe comes from the back of the De Cecco pasta box, which, bizarrely, is turning out to be one of my favorite recipe sources.

To the finished pasta dish, I've added fresh raw corn, but any vegetables will be a welcome addition. Take that Parmesan you left out of the pesto and grate it on top to gild the lily. The result is a gorgeous summer dinner, easy to make for a crowd and simple to tweak according to the contents of your garden in any given week.

Red Pesto Pasta with Fresh Corn

Adapted from De Cecco 

Serves 4

1 pound dried linguine fini or other thin pasta
4 ripe plum tomatoes
15 basil leaves
1 tablespoon celery leaves
1 tablespoon parsley leaves
1 clove garlic
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup almonds (sliced or whole)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil (use a very good one)
3 ears corn

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Do you have a favorite back of the box recipe, or have you heard about a great one? Leave any suggestions in the comments, and I'll try them out and share them here!

Photos by Posie Harwood 

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.