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Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

Roasted red pepper pesto (also known as pesto calabrese or Calabrian pesto) is a great way to add loads of amazing flavor to pasta dishes, pizza, and more. 

Unlike traditional pesto, this red pepper pesto sauce is made with jarred roasted red peppers as the main ingredient.

You can make roasted red peppers by charring the skin on a gas stove or under the broiler in an oven, but I love the ease that comes from using jarred roasted peppers. It’s far less of a hassle and it’s quick! Plus, you can upcycle the glass jar. I like to repurpose it by using it for dry goods in my capsule pantry.

This sauce is the perfect addition to baked Italian bison meatballscrispy roasted potatoes with onionspizza wraps, or stirred into savory breakfast polenta, or spread on toast.

Ingredients

  • Slivered almonds – these get toasted to add more flavor as well as texture.
  • Extra virgin olive oil – adds a savory flavor and gives it the right consistency.
  • Garlic cloves – these get quickly cooked in olive oil to mellow out the flavor and reduce the harshness of the raw garlic, giving them a smoother taste.
  • Jarred whole roasted red bell peppers – you can find these in just about any grocery store.  
  • Lemon juice – adds brightness to the sauce and cuts through any richness.
  • Nutritional yeast – used in place of parmesan cheese in traditional basil pesto and helps keep this red pesto dairy free.
  • Fresh basil leaves – a key ingredient in Italian pesto.
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper – to taste.

How to Make Roasted Pepper Pesto

Step 1. Heat a dry skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the slivered almonds and toast for a couple of minutes, stirring often so they don’t burn until they’re lightly golden brown and smell toasty. Transfer the toasted nuts to the bowl of a food processor.

Optional (for those that don’t like eating raw garlic): Place the skillet back over medium heat and add one teaspoon of olive oil to the skillet along with the peeled and smashed garlic cloves. Cook until the garlic is lightly golden and smells aromatic. Remove from the heat and transfer to the food processor bowl.

Step 2. Shake off any excess water from the peppers and add them to the food processor along with the rest of the ingredients. Blend or pulse until everything is well combined and has reached your desired consistency. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Add more lemon juice as needed, to taste.

Make It Your Way: Substitutions & Variations

Please remember that recipes are just a starting point.

How can you make this red pepper pesto recipe using what you already have? Here are some ideas…

  • No slivered almonds? – you can also use walnuts, cashews, or pine nuts.
  • Make it nut free – use pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or white beans instead.
  • Add-ins – red pepper flakes for spice, a couple of sun-dried tomatoes for more depth of flavor, or a splash of cashew cream to make a pink sauce.

How to Serve

Serve as a pasta sauce for red pepper pesto pasta, as a sandwich spread or on a piece of toast, added to grain bowls, or with roasted vegetables or eggs.

How to Store

Store pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. You can also make a big batch to freeze. 

If freezing, pour the pesto into an ice cube tray (silicone ice cube trays work best because you can easily pop the cubes out). Once frozen, transfer the pesto cubes to a tightly sealed freezer bag and store them in the freezer for up to 3 months. When ready to use, you can thaw them in the fridge overnight or add them directly to a hot skillet.

More Homemade Pesto Recipes

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

5 from 2 votes
A jar of homemade roasted red pepper pesto.
Roasted red pepper pesto (also known as pesto calabrese or Calabrian pesto) is a great way to add loads of amazing flavor to pasta dishes, pizza, and more. This recipe is dairy free.

Ingredients
 

Instructions

  • Heat a dry skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the slivered almonds and toast for a couple of minutes, stirring often so they don't burn until they're lightly golden brown and smell toasty. Transfer the toasted nuts to the bowl of a food processor.
  • Optional step (for those that don't like eating raw garlic): Place the skillet back over medium heat and add one teaspoon of olive oil to the skillet along with the peeled and smashed garlic cloves. Cook until the garlic is lightly golden and smells aromatic. Remove from the heat and transfer to the food processor bowl.
  • Shake off any excess water from the peppers and add them to the food processor along with the rest of the ingredients. Blend or pulse until everything is well combined and has reached your desired consistency. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Add more lemon juice as needed, to taste.

Notes

This recipe makes a little over 2 cups of pesto.
See the blog post for tips on how to store and freeze as well as ideas on how to use this sauce.

Make It Your Way: Substitutions & Variations

No slivered almonds? – you can also use walnuts, cashews, or pine nuts.
Make it nut free – use pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or white beans instead.
Add-ins – red pepper flakes for spice, a couple of sun-dried tomatoes for more depth of flavor, or a splash of cashew cream to make a pink sauce.
5 from 2 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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