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Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

The sweet, smoky and slightly spicy pesto features roasted red peppers, garlic, pine nuts, basil (and mint, if you have it) and Parmesan. It’s an incredible sauce for pasta, or you can spoon it on fish, chicken and vegetables. It’s also fabulous on sandwiches (it makes for the ultimate Grilled Cheese!). You can roast the peppers in the oven under the broiler, on the stovetop over a gas flame, or on a grill. Or you can use jarred roasted red peppers instead (use two large jarred peppers)! For a vegan version, omit the Parmesan cheese and add another tablespoon of pine nuts.
Prep Time30 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: red pepper pesto, roasted red pepper pesto
Servings: 1 cup

Equipment

  • Food Processor or Vitamix

Ingredients

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • ½ cup packed basil (or ¼ cup packed basil and ¼ cup packed mint)
  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Juice from ½ lemon, plus more to taste if needed
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

Roast the peppers

  • If using the oven: Preheat the broiler with a rack 4-5 inches from the heating element. Line a small sheet pan with foil. Cut the bell peppers in half through the stem end and place the peppers cut side down on the pan. Broil until blackened all over, about 10 minutes.
  • If using the stovetop or grill: Place the peppers directly on the range of a gas stove or on the grates of a hot grill. Cook, turning the peppers occasionally, until they’re blackened all over, about 15 minutes total.
  • Transfer the peppers to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam for 5-10 minutes. Peel off and discard the skin (if needed, you can give the peppers a quick rinse). Discard the stems and seeds.

Make the pesto

  • In a food processor with the blade running, add the garlic cloves and coarsely chop. Add the roasted red peppers, pine nuts, basil (or basil and mint), Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, red pepper flakes (if using), and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Process until mostly smooth.
  • With the blade running, drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper and/or lemon juice as needed.

Notes

Do Ahead: The pesto can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Tips:
  • You’ll need a food processor to make this pesto, or you can use a high-speed blender such as a Vitamix.
  • You can roast the peppers directly on a gas stovetop or grill, or in the oven under the broiler.
  • One batch of pesto is perfect for 12-ounces of pasta, although you can stretch it to 1 pound of pasta—just drizzle the pasta with a bit of olive oil.
  • If making pasta, I like to garnish it with fresh basil and/or mint, or even kale chips (the crispy kale is a delicious contrast to the sweet smokiness of the pesto).