Red Pesto Style Sauce

Feature Recipe | Red Pesto Style Sauce

Take my word for it….a quick description to tease your palette:  

This sauce is bursting with flavour… sweet vine-ripened tomatoes are married with savoury cashew-based parmesan cheese, garden fresh basil and minced garlic to create an authentic pesto-inspired sauce with the perfect balance of sweet meets salty and savoury.

Why this recipe:

*It’s inspired by a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s cookbook “Italy” – one of the oldest cookbooks in my collection and also the first one I bought after deciding to go vegetarian. The original recipe titled “spaghetti all trapanese”  hails from the Trapini region of Sicily and was created as an almond and tomato-based alternative to the classic pine nut and basil version. The vegetarian-friendly recipe has been a family favourite since before the kids came along so I was eager to experiment with creating a vegan-friendly version that rivals the original. Armed with determination and agreeable taste testers (aka Janik and the kids) I experimented with different types of dairy-free parmesan cheese and alternatives to pine nuts and arrived at the recipe shared here. With simple ingredients you can whip up this gorgeous red pesto-style sauce in under 30 minutes!

*You can’t go wrong no matter how you make it. What I love most about this recipe is its versatility… use this recipe as a guideline only and play around with the variety of tomatoes and/or tomato sauce used  – even the type of vegan parmesan cheese used – and explore the various flavour combinations. For those with nut allergies/sensitivities sub in hemp seeds for cashews (see recipe for Hemp Parmesan Cheese below). 

A helping hand:

*I recommend making this sauce with fresh, ripe tomatoes; however, when they are out of season and/or you don’t have fresh tomatoes on hand try good quality canned tomatoes and/or strained tomato sauce works too!

*Think OUTSIDE the sauce. This pesto-inspired sauce works well as a pizza sauce alternative, or as a sandwich spread (think Red Pesto Grilled Cheese). The possibilities are endless!

Get inspired with these Vegan Rhapsody favourites:  

Whether RED or GREEN it’s hard not to love pesto… from its simplicity to its unparalleled flavour pesto is a foodie’s dream. Fall in love again with these Vegan Rhapsody favourites:  

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Sensation
Triple Threat Pesto
Tomato & Basil Pesto Pizza



This & That

  • 1 lb dry pasta

Savoury Parmesan Cheese (yields approx. 1 cup)

  • 3/4 cup raw cashews
  • 2 tsp hemp seeds (shelled)
  • 1 tsp Himalayan pink salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

*NUT-FREE* Hemp Parmesan Cheese (yields approx. 3/4 cup)

  • ½ cup hemp seeds (shelled)
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • ½ tsp Himalayan pink salt
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder


  • Glug of olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Handful fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • Himalayan pink salt
  • 1 lb/425g ripe sweet tomatoes, halved*
  • 1.5 cups strained tomatoes/tomato sauce 
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 75 g ground almonds** or hemp seeds
  • 3/4 cup Savoury Parmesan Cheese or Hemp Parmesan Cheese


  • Reserved Savoury Parmesan Cheese or Hemp Parmesan Cheese


Prep It

1/Prepare one batch of Savoury Parmesan Cheese or for nut-free option Hemp Parmesan Cheese; set aside
-Add dry ingredients to a food processor or high-powered blender. Pulse until well combined.
-For Savoury Parmesan Cheese only: Add lemon juice. Pulse until the mixture just starts to combine. Don’t over process – the cheese should be granular, not a paste!
2/Cook 1lb pasta as directed

Make It 

1/Add a glug of olive oil to a pot on medium-low heat. Toss the minced garlic, chopped fresh basil and a pinch of salt into the pot. Sauté until the mixture is golden brown and/or translucent.
2/Add cherry tomatoes, tomato sauce and olive oil to the pot. Raise the temperature to medium-high heat. Simmer (partially covered) for 10 minutes.
3/Fold in ground almonds and ¾ cup vegan parmesan cheese to the pot. Using an immersion blender or a high-powered blender process the sauce until you reach a smooth consistency.
Nut-free option: Use hemp seeds instead of ground almonds.  Use Hemp Parmesan Cheese in place of Savoury Parmesan Cheese.

Serve It 

Pour pesto sauce over plated pasta and garnish with reserved Savoury Parmesan Cheese (or Hemp Parmesan Cheese for nut-free option). 

Recipe Notes

*For best results use a sweet variety of tomatoes such as grape, cherry or cabernet. Ripe plum tomatoes would also work.

**Ground almonds are made from grinding whole, raw almonds in a food processor or high-powered blender until they are processed into a coarse, meal-like texture. Almond flour – typically made from blanched almonds which have had the skins removed –is much finer. This recipe was tested using almond flour.SaveSave


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About Meagan Lamontagne