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During the lockdown, I did what everyone else did: Went through all my kitchen cabinets, cleaning them out, and finding little bits and bags and jars of stuff that I should have used a long time ago, but didn’t.

You did do that – right?

Mine was quite a purge. I’ve had so many things from travels, friends, food companies, houseguests, strangers, etc. that my drawers and cabinets were out-of-control. I posted some pictures on social media of the things that I appeared to be running low on, but that I was anxious to use up, and people, kindly, offered to send me more…which would have negated the whole idea of the purge. The time had come to use things up.

One thing I found that I had a lot of sun-dried tomatoes. I stocked up in Italy (I think?) and had a few jars from testing the Sun-dried Tomato, Bacon, and Cornmeal Madeleines for the apéro snack chapter in Drinking French. As a California restaurant cook in the 80s and 90s, I’ve seen more than my share of sun-dried tomatoes.

Fast-forward to today, and I was once again faced with an overload of what we used to call, in restaurant lingo, SDTs. Not to be confused with STDs. (Although things were pretty rowdy in those days and I’m pretty sure those were a subject of discussion in some of the kitchens I worked in too.)

The great thing about this sun-dried tomato pesto is that you can make it any time of the year and you can tweak it by adding a handful of basil in place of the rosemary. The recipe makes a little more than you’ll need probably for one meal or appetizer, but it keeps in the refrigerator for at least a week or so, and is great when you’re craving full-on tomato flavor and it’s not quite tomato season. It’s versatile enough to be tossed in pasta, smeared on pizza before baking or on flatbread after baking, spread on toasts as an appetizer with bits of goat cheese crumbled on top, alongside grilled fish, meat, or vegetables, as a spread on a sandwich or burger (in place of ketchup), or even snuck in the middle of a grilled cheese sandwich.

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

I used sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil to make this. To make the pesto, you use the oil that the sun-dried tomatoes are packed in (hooray for using everything...), adding additional olive oil (if necessary) to bring the total amount to 1 cup (250ml.) That was the right amount of oil for me but since jarred tomatoes can vary, start with 3/4 cup (180ml) of oil, adding more until it's a nice, spreadable consistency. If you don't have a food processor you could make this in a mortar and pestle or a blender. I like to keep it a little on the chunky side so if using a blender, keep an eye on the texture. If you don't have walnuts, you can use almonds or another nut. Note: This recipe makes quite a bit. It's a good amount if you want to toss it with warm pasta for a main course, but you can cut it in half if just using it as a spread. Or you can make the full recipe and freeze half of it to use at a later date.
  • 2 cups (220g, 8 ounces - drained weight) sun-dried tomatoes, packed in olive oil
  • 3/4 to 1 cup (180-250ml) olive oil from the sun-dried tomatoes, with additional extra-virgin oil olive to get the amount needed
  • 1/2 cup (50g) toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (45g) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • Coarsely chop the sun-dried tomatos and put them in the bowl of a food processor. Add 3/4 cup (180ml) of the oil, chopped walnuts, Parmesan, garlic, rosemary, red pepper flakes, salt, and a few drops of lemon juice.
  • Pulse in the food processor until it's a cohesive paste. Taste and add some or all of the remaining 1/4 cup (60ml) oil, additional salt, chopped rosemary, or lemon juice, if desired.


Serving: See serving suggestions at end of post.
Storage: The pesto will keep two weeks in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen for 2 to 3 months, or longer.



    • Gavrielle

    This sounds so delicious, and also reminds me that I bought sun-dried tomatoes and bacon to make the madeleines you mention! Then I got home and found I was out of cornmeal. Eventually I’ll get it together, sigh.

    • PF

    I make a simpler version (w/o the parmesan and walnuts) that’s my favorite sandwich spread. Especially good on lightly toasted “rustic” Italian bread piled with arugula. Yes, an arugula sandwich…

    • Margaret

    I had roasted cauliflower tossed with sun-dried tomato pesto at a catered event years ago — I think they added kalamata olives — it was

    • Mary-James Lawrence

    Your recipes are so appealing .. and always work . I made your Madeleines yesterday .. twice.. once with King Arthur flour and medium grind cornmeal and then with corn flour and fine grind cornmeal .. both were outstanding but the corn flour ones were definitely the best … couldn’t stay out of them .. will go into my apero rotation. Merci !

    • Lorraine Fina Stevenski

    David: Yeah, that jar of sun dried tomatoes that was expensive in the back of my pantry. I used your recipe but with basil and now I have a nice condiment to slather on the food I love. Even a bagel with cream cheese. Thanks again for a lovely idea and recipe.

    • KL Gaylin

    I make a version of this By subbing parsley for rosemary and adding oil cured chopped pitted kalamata Olives. It’s a umami flavor bomb.

    • Diane

    I have a COSTCO sized bag of SDTs not packed in oil – just the tomatoes – that my husband bought and I have had no idea what to do with them. Can I put them in oil for a few days and them use them like SDTs packed in oil? If so what kind of oil would you use – sunflower or a lighter olive oil or extra virgin olive oil?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      You could either put them in olive oil for a while or just warm them in some water until softened with a touch of vinegar, then squeeze out the excess water before making the recipe. I gave the approximate amount of olive oil that I used but you may need a little more to compensate for the olive oil that’s usually absorbed by the tomatoes. But it’s a very forgivable recipe!

        • Brenda

        Saw this after I posted below… I heated the dried tomatoes for just a few minutes in oil to soften, then used a combo of those with some packed in oil. I used 1/2 cup for 1/2 recipe.

      • Marianne

      I also had some sun dried tomatoes that I bought at a market in Nice. Soaked them in water, drained, and then added olive oil until I had the consistency that I wanted. Delicious!!!

    • Linda Beuret

    Typo in the recipe, I believe you mean 3/4 to 1 cup OIL or OLIVE OIL

    Oops. Thanks. That line was so long the recipe plug-in program wouldn’t show me the whole thing at once…fixed! -dl

    • Ruth Latta

    Do you have any info on bringing canned Fois Gras into The U.S. Cannot make sense of US customs rules.

      • Mike Q

      Ruth, if it’s canned (cooked). I’ve never had a problem. Hope this is useful

    • jane

    Wow your California is showing lol : )
    I OD’d on sundried tomato pesto in the 80’s/90’s, such was my love, but this reminds me how much I still love romesco and I’ll be making that ToDay – thank you! I’ve always wanted to try it the Catalan way with char-grilled green onions so maybe I’ll do that as well.

    • Alicia

    Thank you, David! I bought a small jar of Sun-dried Tomato Tapenade. Ingredients listed are Sun-dried Tomatoes, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Parmesan cheese, Basil, Garlic, Salt & Pepper. I’ve been adding this to fish, halibut or rainbow trout, then pan-frying it. Simple but fantastic results. I will use your recipe in the future, instead of buying the jar.

    • Sue Dumas

    Ruth Latta – we were able to bring glass jars of Foie Gras home with us from a visit to Dordogne. In my checked luggage.

    • Brenda

    This is delicious! I’d just made a batch of ricotta this morning when I opened FB and saw your post there – this seemed like a perfect complement. I had both SDTs in olive oil and dried. Heated the dried in a little oil to soften them a bit then used a combo for the recipe. Only made 1/2 recipe and it may be gone by the end of the day. :-)

    • Cyndy

    I am delighted that somebody besides me still says “snuck”!

    • Lyn Deroy

    Bonjour David, I lived in France for almost 50 years and am now back in my home state, Florida, with my French husband. and my children who also live nearby.
    Because of Covid-19 I am cooking more than ever and love following your newsletter. I have made the Cucumber, mint cooler which my granddaughters love and now we are trying your Sun dried tomato pesto which is delicious.
    Bravo !

    • Pamela

    Thanks for this idea. I roast plum tomatoes and this is a great way to use the “end of the batch” before they go bad.
    Merci encore

    • Ellen Shenkarow

    David, we came home from Sicily last summer with a big bag of sundried tomatoes- bought in a market in Ortigia. We still had quite a lot left- I added olive oil and the rest of the ingredients the recipe called for. You are a genius when it comes to writing recipes. SO GOOD!! Grazie!

    • Lisa Henderson

    Wow, David, this is phenomenal! I had to laugh when I saw you cleaned out your cupboards and found the sun-dried tomatoes. I knew I had some in my pantry, too. I ate a scoop with a spoon and now am making toasts to spread it on with ricotta (didn’t have goat cheese) for my 5pm Happy Hour.

    • Debbie

    I made this today and it is GREAT!!! I froze half in ice cube trays (then popped into ziplock bags) Had some on grilled sourdough bread with ricotta and the SDT pesto. Can’t wait to serve to guests. I can think of lots of ways to use this delicious pesto. Thanks, David.

    • Dr. CaSo

    I made it, except that I didn’t have walnuts so I used pecans, and it was amazing, thanks :)

    • Samuel Collins

    What is that drink in the back of the picture?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      It’s Cap Corse rouge, and apéritif made in Corsica with quinine, and other botanicals.

    • Ledys

    This looks amazing! My dream is to be able to cook each recipe as it is realized! ;-) I just bought the zucchinis for last week’s recipe. Thank you for sharing all this, David!

    • Suzie Sholin

    Hi David, do you think this is enough for a lb. of pasta? More? less? Thank you.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I haven’t done the math on how much pasta it would sauce but my guess would be that 3/4-1# would be about right. It’s pretty strongly flavored, although you might want to just toss 3/4# in first to see how much coverage it gets, then toss in another 1/4# if it can take it. (An extra splash of olive oil might help is become more “saucy” or some of the pasta cooking water.) Let us know if you try it!

    • Tim in SF

    David, Comment about SDT vs. STD made me laugh.
    I too worked (and work) in SF restaurants since 1984. SDTs were so “avant grade” and “au courant” in “sophisticated” places like Postrio, where I worked around 1990 or so.
    Now I’m ready to revisit, not the scene but the tomatoes. Will make this soon.

    • Esdras Junior

    Hi David i only find SDT in sunflower oil, what to do? Best regards!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      You can use that sunflower oil.

    • Ellen N.

    Hi David,

    Thank you very much for this recipe. It is delicious.

    As soon as I saw it I knew that I should make it ASAP as my husband would love it. He particularly likes food that is umami rich; sun dried tomatoes are a favorite of his.

    I made the full recipe. It does make a lot, but I’m glad I had plenty. I had it over borlotti beans the first day. On subsequent days I had it over pasta, then over yellow wax beans.

    • Dawn DeSimone

    This is fabulous! I serve with my homemade ricotta on crisp, ‘seedy’ crackers, topped with a leaf of basil. On of favs and THE summer go to appy this year. Thank you!

    • Jenny Maria Thers Ree

    using a mortar and pestle would be great during confinement where you have to keep your self ocupied

    • Bonny

    This might be my favorite recipe of the summer! Excellent on hamburgers! Excellent on grilled cheese. I know you wouldn’t condone this but I found some vacuum sealed two year old sun dried tomatoes in my freezer and they worked perfectly. I’m busy drying more tomatoes to make more.

    • Elaine

    Just made this tonight to finish up both a jar of sundried tomatoes and some walnuts. Enjoyed it as part of a charcuterie platter and there’s some in the freezer for another time. Excellent recipe, David!

    • Dawn DeSimone

    David, if I may, we discovered a fabulous source for sun dried tomatoes, at a very reasonable price, and they ship nationwide. Lucky for us, they are at our weekly farmers market in NJ throughout the summer. The seasoning is perfect for this pesto. Try some next time you are in the US, or visit their store. Love ALL your recipes! Thank you!!


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