BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Pesto Calabrese, from Calabria region in Italy, is a simple purée with a base of sweet red peppers, tomatoes, and Ricotta cheese. It often includes nuts for richness and, on occasion, cooked eggplant for added creaminess. Here, we char the fresh red bell pepper in a hot skillet to also give it a subtle smokiness.
Prep Time: 1 hour
Yields: 4 to 6 servings
1 pound campanelle or orecchiette pasta
2 medium red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into (¼-inch) strips
¼ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
¼ cup whole-milk Ricotta cheese
1 tbsp grapeseed, canola, or other neutral oil
¼ cup thinly sliced garlic
salt and black pepper to taste
¾ tsp red pepper flakes
½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
⅓ cup lightly packed fresh basil, torn
NOTE: To char the bell peppers properly, do not use olive oil! Choose an oil with a high smoke point such as grapeseed or canola to avoid scorching the oil before the peppers are properly cooked.
In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, heat grapeseed oil until shimmering. Add bell peppers and cook 3–5 minutes or until lightly charred, stirring occasionally.
Add sliced garlic and cook 2 additional minutes or unit peppers are softened and garlic is golden brown. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Remove from heat, then stir in pepper flakes and ¼ cup toasted almonds. Transfer mixture to bowl of a food processor and allow to cool to room temperature.
While mixture is cooling, cook pasta accordingly to package directions until al dente. Drain pasta, reserve 1 cup cooking liquid and set aside.
Once pepper mixture is cooled down, add tomatoes, Ricotta, Parmesan, and olive oil into the food processor. Process 45 second or until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
Transfer pesto to a large bowl then add pasta along with ¼ cup reserved cooking liquid. Toss to mix well, adding more cooking liquid as needed.
Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer to a serving dish, then sprinkle with basil and remaining toasted almonds.
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