Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Pasta

SUN DRIED TOMATO PESTO PASTA is quick, easy and exploding with flavor!

This Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta is one of my favorite pastas in the world and guaranteed to become a new family favorite!   It’s a quick and easy pulsing of ingredients to create the sensational sun-dried tomato pesto sauce and then you saute it with veggies (optional) and stir in some chicken broth and heavy cream to create CREAMY sun-dried tomato pesto pasta that is lick-the plate delicious. I’ve include ways to customize the sun-dried tomato pesto pasta with different proteins and veggies so it can be different every time – because trust me, you are going to want to make this sun-dried tomato pesto ALL the time!

a skillet of  sun-dried tomato pesto pasta with cheesy chicken

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta

I love sun-dried tomato pesto pasta.   It was over a big bowl of this pasta at a favorite Italian restaurant that Patrick told his parents we were getting married.

Patrick and I hadn’t been dating long, but we both knew we were meant for each other.  I had been told that when you meet the right person, you just “know.”  Many suitors before Patrick I asked myself,”do I know???”  And then Patrick came along, and I just knew.  We both knew we wanted to spend forever together before we even held hands.  (You can read more about our Love Story here.)

Since we hadn’t been dating long, I hadn’t had the chance to meet his parents until all four of us were clustered around bowls of sun-dried tomato pesto pasta, fettuccine, spaghetti bolognese, and lasagna.  As we were chatting, Patrick, asked his dad, “Can you pass the salt?” then under his breath with a muffled  cough announced “and we’re getting married.” (He thought it would be funny to tell them this way).  Both parents’ eyes grew wide as Patrick affirmed we were engaged followed by a flood of their happy tears.

Over 13 years and many  bowls of sun-dried tomato pesto pasta later, we are still meant for each other – we are better together.  Kind of like fettuccine and Alfredo, spaghetti and bolognese, and this Creamy Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Pasta, Parmesan Chicken and YOU!    A cheesy tie in?  Yes, literally.  Thank you Parmesan.

 to view of sun-dried tomato pesto pasta recpie in a skillet

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta Recipe

This Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Pasta reminds me of the tastes of Italy we giddily celebrated over that night.  Its dimensions of flavor will transport your whole household to the finest Italian restaurant (at a fraction of the cost I might add).  

This Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Pasta boasts layered flavors of sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, fresh basil, fresh parsley, garlic, shallots and spices with the crunch of sauteed bell peppers and squash, fire roasted tomatoes and smooth al dente pasta all bathed in a luscious creamy sauce.  

The ingredient list is long for this sauce, but I promise it comes together very quickly and is so worth it.  Most of the ingredients are added to the food processor and processed a couple times-seriously takes less than a couple minutes.  Please don’t shy away from this awesomeness.

SUN-DRIED TOMATO PESTO SAUCE INGREDIENTS

The star of this Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta is obviously the pesto sauce. It is tangy, bright, fresh, garlicky and absolutely heavenly. I love it so much, I’ve already used versions of it in my Greek Pasta Salad and my Shrimp Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta. You will need:

  • sun-dried tomatoes: use sun-dried tomatoes in a jar packed in oil, not water.
  • basil leaves: please don’t substitute dried.
  • parsley: fresh please!
  • garlic cloves: use more or less to taste.
  • shallot: one medium shallot will do the trick.
  • pine nuts: you may substitute with 3 tablespoons almonds if that’s all you have on hand.
  • tomato paste: when only using a small amount of tomato paste like in this sun-dried tomato pesto pasta recipe, you can freeze the rest of the can by the tablespoon. Simply drop tomato paste by the tablespoon onto parchment paper so they are not touching and freeze on a baking sheet until solid. Cut around the tomato paste, wrap up and add the tablespoons to a freezer safe bag so you can use them one at a time.
  • flour: all purpose or gluten free flour work great. Flour isn’t typically found in sun-dried tomato pesto, but we are adding it to help thicken the creamy sauce.
  • seasonings: salt, red pepper flakes, oregano and pepper.

WHAT SUN-DRIED TOMATOES SHOULD I BUY?

Sun-Dried Tomatoes are usually located near the olives or pickles at your grocery store.  Purchase sun-dried tomatoes in a jar and not the dried ones that come in a package.  The oil keeps them bold and moist and we are going to be using the oil they are packed instead of regular olive oil for extra sun-dried tomato oomph throughout the recipe.

up close of easy sun-dried tomato pesto pasta

How to Make Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta

Step 1: Cook Pasta

  • Cook pasta of choice al dente in generously salted water. This means the pasta still has a little bite. You don’t want mushy pasta!
  • If your pasta is finished cooking before the sauce is complete then toss it with a little sun-dried tomato oil to prevent it from sticking together.

Step 2: Make Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Sauce

  • While the pasta is cooking, add all of the Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Sauce ingredients to a food processor.
  • Pulse and process until well blended.
showing how to make  sun-dried tomato pesto by adding sun-dried tomatoes, basil, garlic, parsley and pine nuts to a food processor then processing until smooth

Step 3: Saute Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Sauce

  • Sauteing the Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Sauce unlocks all of the flavors, and melds them together.
  • Saute the pesto in 1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato oil for 4 minutes.
  • After 4 minutes, you can add any veggies you wish and cook for an additional minute.
showing how to make  sun-dried tomato pesto pasta by cooking pesto with veggies

Step 4: Make it creamy

  • You don’t have to make the Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta creamy if you don’t want. Instead, you can add the pesto directly to the pasta and add additional olive oil and reserved hot pasta water tot thin to desired consistency. As for me – I LOVE the creamy version.
  • To make creamy sun-dried tomato peso pasta, stir in chicken broth, heavy cream, fire roasted tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and sugar into the pesto/veggie mixture.
  • Bring sauce to a boil then reduce to simmer until thickened and vegetables are crisp-tender.

Step 5: Combine!

  • Stir cooked pasta into the creamy sun-dried tomato pesto sauce.
  • Add additional milk or reserved pasta water to reach desired consistency.
  • Taste and add additional salt, pepper, red pepper to taste.
showing how to make sun-dried tomato pesto pasta by adding pasta to sun-dried tomato pesto sauce

Can I Add chicken to Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta?

Absolutely! You can either consume this pasta as is (and you won’t be able to resist eating at least some of the pasta as it is), or you can add sauteed chicken or go to extra lengths of deliciousness and add chicken coated in spiced floured, browned and finished in the oven, broiled until crispy then piled high with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Basically amazing. I’ve included instructions in the recipe.

More chicken options:

  • chicken thighs. Due to their higher fat content, chicken thighs are inherently juicer than chicken breasts and harder to overcook. Simply season with salt and pepper, and cook in olive oil for approximately 3-5 minutes per side until cooked thorough.
  • chopped chicken breasts. Chop up chicken breasts and season with some salt and pepper.  Heat one tablespoon oil over medium high heat, add chicken and cook chicken just until cooked through.  Remove to a plate then stir into pasta once done.
  • Use rotisserie chicken. Stir shredded rotisserie chicken directly into pasta once done.

Can I add other Protein to Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta?

This Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta is a blank canvas to add any protein you wish! In addition to chicken, it is delicious with:

  • shrimp
  • salmon
  • ground beef
  • ground turkey
  • ground chicken
  • sausage
  • ham

Can I add other Veggies to Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta?

I’ve added bell peppers and squash to this Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta, but you can use whatever veggies you want! Just be aware of cooking times. For example, carrots will need to be added first thing with the pesto because they take longer to cook and spinach should be added at the very end of cooking once the pasta is all combined. Here are some veggie ideas:

  • carrots
  • artichokes
  • celery
  • mushrooms
  • peas
  • zucchini
  • spinach
  • kale
  • eggplant
side view of sun-dried tomato pesto pasta recipe

Other Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta Variations

  • Skip the protein.  You can instantly turn this into a meatless Monday dinner or a side dish by omitting the protein.
  • Make it cheesy.  As written, the pasta is more creamy than cheesy, but you can certainly make it cheesier by adding mozzarella either directly into the sauce or melting it on top of the pasta.
  • Add panko topping.  There are two ways to add panko:  1) sprinkle panko over the top of your pasta and spray lightly with cooking spray and broil; 2) for the CRUNCHIEST panko topping, I recommend toasting it in a skillet first – life changing.  To do this, melt 2 tablespoons butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium skillet. Add 3/4 cup panko and stir and cook unto panko becomes golden brown. Evenly sprinkle over pasta.
  • Make gluten-free.  To make this Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta gluten free, simply replace the flour with gluten free flour.

TIPS AND TRICKS FOR SUN-DRIED TOMATO PESTO PASTA

This Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta is pretty straightforward, but here are a few helpful tips and tricks to help you achieve perfect pasta every time:

  • You can use a different pasta but I suggest something with curves or ridges so the sauce wills stick to it. Stop pasta from cooking one you remove it from the stove by rinsing in cool water.
  • If you’re not using the cooked pasta right away, toss it with a little olive oil.  This will prevent it from sticking together.
  • You can substitute the shallot with ¼ yellow onion.
  • Purchase sun-dried tomatoes packed in OIL not dry packaged ones.
  • Use more or less sun-dried tomatoes depending on desired taste.
  • You may substitute the sun-dried tomato oil called for for olive oil.
  • You can substitute the fire roasted tomatoes for diced tomatoes.
  • Only use freshly grated Parmesan as packaged, pre-shredded cheeses do not melt very well.
  • Reserve ½ cup of pasta water so you can use it to thin sun-dried tomato pesto sauce if desired.

How long is Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto good for?

You can make the Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto ahead of time and store it an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 5 days.

CAN I MAKE Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta in ADVANCE?

If you would like to make this Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta in advance, I recommend keeping the pasta and the sauce separate. This will prevent the pasta from soaking up too much of the sauce.

  • To store, transfer pesto sauce to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.  Take care the container is glass or ceramic as the sauce can stain plastic containers.  
  • To store the pasta, toss it with a little olive oil to keep it from sticking together.  Store in a freezer size plastic bag or airtight container in the refrigerator.

WHAT TO SERVE WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATO PESTO?

We love this Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto with a big salad and Garlic Parmesan Butter Breadsticks.  It is also delicious with any of the following:

WHAT ELSE CAN I USE Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto FOR?

Aside from the obvious uses on pasta, sun-dried tomato pesto sauce is also delicious:

  • stirred into some rice or quinoa
  • stuffed into peppers and baked
  • served over zoodles or spaghetti squash
  • stuffed in zucchini boats, topped mozzarella and baked
  • stuffed in savory crepes
  • on top of cheesy bread
  • tossed with roasted veggies
top view of sun-dried tomato pesto pasta recipe with chicken and veggies

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Pasta With one bite you will know you’re meant for each other.

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Creamy Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Pasta with Parmesan Chicken

This Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta is quick, easy and exploding with flavor! It’s a quick and easy pulsing of ingredients to create the sensational sun-dried tomato pesto sauce and then you saute it with veggies (optional) and stir in some chicken broth and heavy cream to create CREAMY sun-dried tomato pesto pasta that is lick-the plate delicious. I’ve include ways to customize the sun-dried tomato pesto pasta with different proteins and veggies so it can be different every time - because trust me, you are going to want to make this sun-dried tomato pesto ALL the time!
Servings: 4 -6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. extra broad egg noodles (I like No Yolk)
  • 1 pound chicken breasts pounded thin (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3-1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Chicken Breading (optional)*

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon dry basil
  • 1/2 tsp EACH salt, garlic pwdr, onion pwdr, dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Sundried Tomato Pesto

  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, drained of oil
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 shallot, peeled
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 tsp EACH red pepper flakes, dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon flour

Creamy Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 squash, sliced and quartered
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream mixed with 2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 14.5 oz can fire roasted garlic diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Instructions

  • Pasta: Cook the pasta al dente in generously salted water
  • Chicken (optional) : Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easy cleanup) and place a cooking rack on top; lightly spray cooking rack with cooking spray.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Combine Chicken Breading ingredients in a bowl/shallow dish then dredge chicken breasts in mixture. Tap off any excess flour then add chicken to skillet and cook until golden brown on one side, 3-5 minutes. Flip and cook chicken until the other side is golden, 2-3 minutes, then transfer chicken to prepared cooking rack and finish baking in the oven, 5-7 minutes, or until cooked through (cooking time will depend on size and thickness of chicken). Broil chicken until crispy, flip chicken, top with Parmesan cheese and broil until cheese is golden.
  • Creamy Sundried Tomato Pesto Sauce: Meanwhile, add Sundried Tomato Pesto ingredients to a food processor and process until well blended. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato oil over medium heat. Add Sun-dried Tomato Pesto and saute for 4 minutes. Add bell pepper and squash and saute an additional minute.
  • Stir in chicken broth until well incorporated then stir in heavy cream/cornstarch slurry, milk, fire roasted tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and sugar. Bring sauce to a boil then reduce to simmer until thickened and vegetables are crisp-tender.
  • Stir in cooked pasta. Add additional milk to reach desired consistency (optional). Taste and add additional salt, pepper, red pepper to taste.
  • Top with chicken and serve.

Notes

*Optional but recommended! Alternatively you can combine olive oil and the breading spices, rub over chicken and saute chicken then add Parmesan to the entire skillet.

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15 Comments

  1. Spencer says

    Oh wow, I LOVE the idea of sun dried tomatoes blended in the pesto! Def trying this one, looks delicious!

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Spencer! It is one of my favorite pestos and sauces ever – can’t wait for you to try it! hope you love it as much as I do!

  2. Diana says

    WOW! This pasta is amazing! I made it first without the chicken and loved it so much I made it the next week with the chicken. Both wonderful. This is a new family favorite. Thank you for such a delicious recipe!

    • Jen says

      YAY! I love that you love it Diana! And you are most welcome! Finding a new family favorite is always exciting 🙂 Hope you find more to love here!

  3. Jo says

    I enjoyed this but for some reason my pasta came out creamer than the photo – I even added less cream than specified. Was still delicious and my parents have requested it again as it was (I’ll try to screw it up twice…) but for me and OH I’ll leave the milk, cream and some cornflour out. Thanks!

    • Jen says

      Hi Jo! I am so happy you enjoyed this pasta! I’m not sure why it turned out creamier but I’m glad it was a welcome change 🙂

  4. Agnes says

    Hi Jen!
    First off, I’ve just discovered your blog & I am absolutely in love with it! So far, I’ve only made this recipe but I already know I’m going to try many more. Also, your pictures look absolutely amazing!
    I stumbled across this recipe because I had some sun-dried tomatoes that I had to use up & I looove sun-dried tomato pesto.
    I have to say, I only made the pesto and tossed it with pasta & some grilled chicken and red bell peppers but it turned out great! So flavorful! Thanks for the recipe :)!

    Love from the Netherlands x

    • Jen says

      Hi Agnes, welcome to my site all the way from the Netherlands! My dad actually lived there for two years while serving a mission and he LOVED it! I am so happy you you loved this pasta! I might also like my Sundried Tomato Basil Shrimp Pasta which I based off of the recipe you just made: https://carlsbadcravings.com/20-minute-sun-dried-tomato-basil-shrimp-pasta/ I hope you have fun exploring and thanks for making my day with your kind comment!

  5. Sequoya says

    This looks amazing and I’m looking forward to trying it, however, I won’t have the time or resources to make the pesto myself. Can you tell me approximately how much your recipe makes so I can purchase the equivalent pre-made?

    • Jen says

      Hi Sequoya, I’m not quite sure how much it makes, but you could start with 1/3 cup and more to taste. Enjoy!

  6. Kelly Hernandez says

    I wrote down the ingredients for the recipe, but when I got to the market I was excited by all of the fall vegetables so I swapped the summer squash for a beautiful butternut squash and my boyfriend was thrilled (me too!). I did not add sugar to offset the sweeter taste of the squash. Overall, great recipe! Thank you for sharing your love for food with us 🙂

    • Kelly Hernandez says

      Oh and a made a “nut-less” pesto because I did not have pine nuts. It still turned out wonderful!

    • Jen says

      Your swap of butternut squash sounds perfect this time of year! I am so happy you enjoyed it!

  7. Tabitha says

    I have sun-dried tomato pesto I made for a different recipe before I found this one. How much pesto would I need to measure to use in this recipe instead of making the batch of pesto in this recipe?

    • Jen says

      Hi Tabitha, I am guesstimating looking at the ingredients that it would be about half a cup, I would start with that and add more as needed. I hope that helps!