When things are busy, I like having something in the fridge I can use to whip up a meal that’s quick and fresh. Pesto Calabrese (Roasted Red Pepper Pesto) is great to have around, and makes a wonderful and tasty alternative to a traditional tomato sauce, as well as a typical basil pesto.
Pesto Alla Calabrese
There are so many variations on pesto to be found, but what is Pesto Calabrese? Pesto Calabrese is a slightly spicy and creamy pesto from Calabria, a region in Italy. Its main ingredient is roasted red peppers. Nuts, ricotta cheese, and sometimes sun dried tomatoes are added as well. It has a creamy consistency, and can be made as spicy as you like!
Why You Will Love Pesto Calabrese
This sauce is versatile with so much flavor, and there are a number of ways to change it up a little too!
My whole family loves this pesto, and I make it often. If you garden and happen to do well growing bell peppers, this recipe is a fantastic way to use them.
I love making this when my local market is having a sale on red bell peppers. I can buy a whole bunch and use them all up at once!
The sweet smoky notes of the red bell pepper are awesome, then there is the hint of spice from the chilies, and the creamy ricotta. This recipe is proof that pesto is not just for basil! Pesto Calabrese will add spice to your pesto life!
Pesto Calabrese Ingredients
This is a simple ingredient list and most if not all should be easy to find!
- Red Bell Peppers
- Fresno Chilies
- Salt and Pepper
- Ricotta Cheese
- Parmesan Cheese
- Olive Oil
This is a pesto recipe with walnuts! I used walnuts in this pesto because not only do I like to mix it up from time to time, but they are much cheaper than pine nuts by a long shot.
I’m all about saving money where I can, and walnuts are a simple swap in pesto! I normally buy my walnuts in the baking aisle of my local grocery store. They are not only unsalted, but I have found that they are cheaper in the baking section than the other sections of the store where nuts are normally sold.
How To Make Pesto Calabrese
If you are wondering how to make bold flavorful pesto calabrese, it is so easy!
- Cut the tops off the peppers and cut them in half lengthwise.
- Roast and peel the peppers.
- Add the ingredients to a food processor.
- Pulse and process until you have a creamy Calabrian Pesto!
Peeling the roasted red bell peppers and the Fresno chili is actually pretty simple. You can do this one of two ways: either wait for them to cool and simply peel the skin off, or place the still warm peppers in a gallon freezer bag and seal it shut. Wait a few minutes and you will find that the steam trapped inside the bag goes a long way to help get the skin off the peppers!
In either case, all you need is your fingers to peel the skin off. There are no special tools needed to peel them.
Whichever method you decide to use, you may find that the skin is a bit stubborn and won’t come off in some places. That’s ok! Just do what you can to get as much skin off as possible. I have made this recipe many times with a little skin still left on the peppers, and it has not affected the outcome at all.
There is a little more to this recipe than what I’ve explained here, this is just a basic overview of what you’ll need to do. For complete instructions, head on down to the end of the post to the recipe card. It has all the info you need!
- Rimmed Baking Sheet
- Food Processor
If you have a very large mortar and pestle and want to make this the old school way, you can certainly give it a try. Most of us probably don’t have one laying around, but most of us do have a food processor. If you don’t, a decent quality high powered blender will also work.
Pesto Calabrese Recipe Tips
- If you don’t want to heat up your house by turning on your oven, you can use a gas or charcoal grill to roast these.
- Once the peppers are cooked the whole sauce comes together in a flash with a few pulses in the food processor.
- If you know you don’t have time to make the pesto right away, roast and peel your peppers, put them in a freezer bag to store in the refrigerator, and make the pesto another day.
You most certainly could, though I don’t think the flavor would be as fresh as with the peppers you roast yourself. If you go this route, be sure to drain them well before using and that they are not marinated or packed in any sort of flavored liquid that could throw off the flavor of the pesto.
It can be as spicy or as mild as you like. Spicy Calabrian chilies are usually used in this recipe, but since they can be hard to come by in most grocery stores, I have substituted Fresno Chilies, which look like a red jalapeno.
Yes, you can leave the cheese out and the pesto is still great! I would add a little more salt to make up for the cheese not being there, as it has its own saltiness.
There are a few substitutions I can suggest if you either don’t have certain ingredients on hand, or if you’d just like to change this up a little!
- Pine Nuts or Almonds instead of Walnuts.
- Add some Sun Dried Tomato (Replace two of the red bell peppers with about a quarter cup of sun dried tomatoes).
- Use Calabrian chilies instead of fresno chilies if you can find them.
How To Use Pesto Calabrese
How do you eat Pesto Calabrese? I really enjoy the versatility of this sauce.
My favorite way to eat it is on a hoagie roll with homemade meatballs. In fact, my recipe for handmade oven baked meatballs is a great pairing with this sauce. It is also great as a base for pizza, and delicious on grilled or baked salmon, or chicken. This pesto makes a great substitute for basil pesto in my Pesto Butter Salmon as well.
It can be tossed with some cooked pasta and steamed veggies for a quick and light dinner, perfect for those nights when you just want to relax after a long day.
You can use this sauce on most any type of pasta you like. If you make a double batch, it is a terrific alternative to marinara in a lasagna!
Why use mayonnaise when you can use this as a condiment on sandwiches?
This also makes a great veggie dip for a crudite platter, or serve it with crackers as part of a charcuterie board.
You could also try this with my recipe for Garlic Scape Ravioli if it’s garlic scape season.
This sauce will keep in the fridge in a tightly wrapped bowl or other container with a lid for up to a week. I have not tried freezing this pesto, so I am unsure of what the results would be if it were frozen.
If you tried this Pesto Calabrese recipe, I’d love to hear how it turned out! Just leave a rating or comment below. To share, take a picture and tag me @thecoppertable on Instagram. You can share with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or other social platforms you might use. You can also pin to a Sauces, Italian Food, or Pasta board on Pinterest!
If you have not signed up for my weekly newsletter and you would love all the latest updates, you can do that below. I have lots of exclusive content just for newsletter subscribers, and I’d love for you to join. Happy Cooking!
This Pesto Calabrese is full of sweet smoky flavor thanks to roasted red peppers. Try this creamy and easy pesto the next time you are looking for something a little different!
- 7 Large Red Bell Peppers
- 1/4 cup Walnuts (unsalted)
- 1/4 cup Ricotta Cheese
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
- 1-2 Fresno Chilies
- 1 clove Garlic
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Pepper
- 1/4 cup Olive Oil
- Heat oven to 425 degrees. Cut the bell peppers in half lengthwise, remove seeds and stems and place cut side up on two sheet pans.
- Bake the peppers for 10 minutes, then switch the pans on the racks. Bake ten more minutes, then turn peppers over cut side down, switching pans on the racks again. Bake ten more minutes, switch the pans one last time, and bake ten more minutes. They should take around 30 to 40 minutes to bake.
- Remove the peppers from the oven and cool on the sheet pans or place in a gallon freezer bag and seal it to help the skin come off more easily.
- Place the 1/4 cup of walnuts, 1/4 cup of ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup of parmesan, clove of garlic, the 1 tsp of salt, and 1/2 tsp of black pepper into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.
- Peel skins from peppers and the Fresno chilies, adding them to the food processor bowl as you go.
- Now add the olive oil to the food processor 1 tbsp at a time, pulsing a few times between each addition, until pesto is smooth. Toss with pasta immediately or store in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container.
This pesto will keep in the fridge in a tightly covered container for about 5 days.
Pine Nuts or Almonds in an equal amount may be used instead of walnuts.
Whole Milk or Part Skim ricotta can be used interchangeably.
The peppers and Fresno chilies may be roasted ahead, peeled, and refrigerated to assemble the pesto later.
You may find you need a little more or less olive oil than what is called for. You don't want the pesto too runny. it should be creamy and a little on the thick side.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 112Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 329mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 1gSugar: 5gProtein: 2g
All information presented and written within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist or registered dietitian and any nutritional information should only be used as a general guideline. Statements within this site have not been evaluated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is provided for recipes contained on this site. This information comes from online calculators. Although The Copper Table attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.