A leftover scoop of pesto and a neglected jar of sun-dried tomatoes were the inspiration behind these savory, herb-flecked dinner rolls. And boy, oh boy, am I thankful for it! These rolls make a mighty fine — and colorful! — accompaniment to an al fresco summer meal, whether they're served beside a simple dinner salad or stand in for burger buns at a barbecue.
I'll admit — I expected these rolls to be green from the pesto. Instead, the sun-dried tomatoes and the oil in which they were packed turned my rolls a surprising and beautiful shade of red-orange. I love it.
I can't wait for you to smell these rolls as they are baking. They have that sweet earthy aroma of just-picked garden tomatoes combined with crushed basil leaves. And, of course, that yeasty bakery aroma of bread rising. It's heavenly. Waiting for the rolls to cool was definitely one of the hardest things I did last week.
I worried about the amount of pesto to add, and in the end, I settled on a half cup. I think this is just enough so that you get a good wallop of nutty basil flavor in every bite. These are great passed around the table in a bread basket, but don't be shy about putting them to work as burger buns and sandwich rolls. You could even turn leftover bread into savory croutons!
Have a little pesto left in your fridge or tucked away in your freezer? I can think of nothing better than turning it into these dinner rolls.
Sun-Dried Tomato & Pesto Dinner Rolls
1 tablespoon active-dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (not hot or boiling)
1/2 cup whole or 2% milk
1 large egg
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, diced (See Recipe Notes)
1/2 cup pesto
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 - 3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup grated parmesan
In the bowl of a standing mixer (or a large bowl, if mixing by hand), stir the yeast into the warm water and let it sit until dissolved. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk and egg. Add this to the yeast mixture and stir until combined.
Stir the sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, salt, and whole wheat flour into the liquids. Add 2 1/2 cups of the all-purpose flour and stir until you form a shaggy, floury dough. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes before kneading to give the flour time to absorb the liquids and make it easier to knead.
In a standing mixer with a dough hook attachment, knead the dough on low speed until it is smooth, supple, and pulls away from the sides of the bowl cleanly, 8 to 10 minutes. You can also knead the dough by hand against the counter. If the dough still seems very sticky after a few minutes of kneading, add a few tablespoons of all-purpose flour and continue kneading — you may need to add up to 1/2 cup of flour (this will depend on the amount of oil in your pesto).
Cover the mixing bowl and let the dough rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, about an hour.
Dust your work surface with a little flour and turn the risen dough out on top. Divide the dough into 12 pieces with a bench scraper. To shape into rolls, tuck the edges underneath to form a plump little package, then roll the dough against the counter or between your palms until round. (Read more about shaping dinner rolls here.)
Line a 9x13 pan with parchment and spray with nonstick coating. Arrange the rolls inside the pan spaced a little apart. Let the rolls rise until they look pillowy and fill the pan, roughly 30 to 40 minutes.
While the rolls are rising, pre-heat the oven to 375°F.
Once they have risen, bake the rolls until puffed, hard and dry on top, and golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle the tops of the rolls with the grated parmesan cheese and bake for one more minute to melt the cheese.
Lift the rolls from the pan using the parchment and let the rolls cool on a wire rack until cool enough to handle. They are best if eaten within a day or two, but will keep in an airtight container on the counter for up to a week. If you're planning to freeze the rolls, wait to top with parmesan cheese — freeze the rolls tightly wrapped and add the cheese when re-heating before serving.
- Sun-Dried Tomatoes: I used store-bought sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil for this recipe, but homemade dried tomatoes — either dry or packed in oil — would work for this recipe. If your tomatoes are dry (not packed in oil), then you may not need to add as much flour while kneading.
(Images: Emma Christensen)