Roasted Red Pepper Pesto is a sweet and tangy sauce featuring classic Italian ingredients, including roasted red peppers, fresh basil, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano, garlic, and toasted pine nuts. Enjoy it as a pasta or pizza sauce, sandwich spread, or as a dipping sauce for crusty bread!
We love to make a batch of this red pesto at the beginning of the week then use it for a bunch of different dishes. Our favorite ways to use it are with pasta, as a spread for roasted chicken focaccia sandwiches, or drizzled over Broiled Garlic Flank Steak; but there are a ton of other ways to use it as well. Make a big batch for a quick meal then freeze some for later!
This pesto is inspired by pesto alla Calabrese (Calabrian pesto) and can be easily made spicy with the addition of red pepper flakes. It's gluten-free, vegetarian, and goes with so many dishes. Just blend the ingredients and enjoy!
About Roasted Red Pepper Pesto
- Taste - The combination of roasted red bell peppers, cheese, pine nuts, and olive oil creates a uniquely bright and flavorful twist on traditional pesto.
- Texture - The pesto is creamy yet light.
- Effort - All you need to do is add the ingredients to a food processor then blend and enjoy!
- Time - It takes just 8 minutes to whip up this pesto.
- Roasted red peppers - Roasted red peppers have a lightly sweet and smoky flavor. We prefer the flavor of Trader Joe's roasted red peppers.
- Fresh basil leaves - Basil adds an herby freshness to the pesto.
- Parmigiano-Reggiano - Parmigiano-Reggiano provides sharpness in the pesto.
- Pecorino romano - Pecorino adds a savory and tangy accent.
- Toasted pine nuts - Toasted pine nuts have a uniquely rich and sweet flavor. They also add a sweet nuttiness to the sauce.
- Garlic cloves - Garlic cloves add the quintessential aroma.
- Kosher salt - Salt accentuates the rich flavors of the pesto.
- Extra virgin olive oil - Olive oil is an emulsifier that brings the ingredients together.
See recipe card for quantities.
- Greens - Substitute basil for a small handful of spinach, arugula, or baby kale instead.
- Nuts - Use toasted walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, or pistachios instead of pine nuts.
- Kale pesto - Try our Kale Walnut Pesto recipe with fresh torn kale for an earthy alternative.
- Basil pesto - Our Basil Pesto recipe has a slightly subtler and less sweet flavor.
- Nut free pesto - If you are allergic to nuts or just want to keep fat calories down, you can omit the pine nuts, or use sunflower seeds instead.
- Parmesan Cheese - You can use grated parmesan cheese if you don't have Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- Spicy - Add red pepper flakes to make this sauce spicy.
- Sun dried tomatoes - Add a couple tablespoons of sun dried tomatoes to the pesto for a rich tomato flavor.
- Lemon juice - Add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice or a little bit of lemon zest for extra acidity and brightness.
- Vegan - Omit the cheese to make this recipe vegan and dairy free.
- Toast pine nuts - Add the pine nuts in a single layer to a dry skillet and turn the heat to medium-low. Do not overcrowd the pan. Cook the pine nuts and stir occasionally to toast both sides of the nuts. Keep a close eye to ensure the pine nuts do not burn. Cook until golden and toasted, about 3 minutes. Then transfer to a plate in a single layer to cool. This will also stop the pine nuts from further cooking or burning. (Photo 1 and 2)
- Blend cheese, pine nuts, and garlic - Add in cheese, pine nuts, and garlic to the processor container. Then pulse until the mixture is well-blended and forms a sandy texture, about 30 seconds. (Photo 3 and 4)
- Add roasted red peppers and basil - Add roasted red peppers and basil to the container and blend. Stream in olive oil while blending, then season with salt to taste. Enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container and refrigerate. (Photo 5 and 6)
Pro tip - Make sure the red peppers are thoroughly drained before adding them to the food processor container. The excess water will make the pesto too wet and will dilute the flavor.
What to Serve with Red Pepper Pesto
This red pepper pesto is super versatile and can be used for so many dishes! We typically make it in the beginning of the week then use it for several different meals. We love it to make a red pepper pesto pasta, use it as a sandwich spread, or as a dip for crostini. It is also delicious on skewers, on steak, or as a pizza topping.
This easy red pepper pasta sauce can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Before you store it, add a thin layer of olive oil to seal out the air and prevent the sauce from oxidizing and turning brown. You can also freeze the pesto for up to 6 months. When you are ready to enjoy it, let it thaw in the fridge or at room temperature.
- Do not turn your back on the pine nuts! They burn very easily and leaving them unattended will result in burnt nuts.
- Use a baking spatula to scrape all of the red pepper sauce from the food processor to eliminate food waste.
- If you store and refrigerate the pesto, be sure to mix it again before using it. The ingredients can separate while stored in the refrigerator.
Red pesto is typically made with sun-dried tomatoes (AKA pesto rosso) or roasted red peppers, pine nuts, basil, cheese, garlic, and olive oil.
No, the red peppers add a light sweetness. If you want to make the sauce spicy, you can add red pepper flakes.
Yes! While it may be tempting to go with store-bought pesto, homemade pesto is both tastier and healthier. It also only takes just 8 minutes to make!
You can enjoy it hot or cold! When we serve it with pasta for dinner, we typically mix in the hot pasta and pasta water with the room temperature pesto to warm it up.
Yes, when enjoyed in moderation, pesto may reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Also note that homemade pesto is typically healthier than store-bought.
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Roasted Red Pepper Pesto
- ⅔ cup parmigiano-reggiano or 4 oz, cubed or grated
- ½ cup pecorino romano or 3 oz, cubed or grated
- 2 tablespoon pine nuts toasted
- 2 garlic cloves peeled
- 12 oz roasted red peppers drained
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
- Toast pine nuts - Add the pine nuts in a single layer to a dry skillet and turn the heat to medium-low. Do not overcrowd the pan. Cook the pine nuts and stir occasionally to toast both sides of the nuts. Keep a close eye to ensure the pine nuts do not burn. Cook until golden and toasted, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate in a single layer to cool. This will also stop the pine nuts from further cooking or burning.2 tablespoon pine nuts
- Blend cheese, pine nuts, and garlic - Add in cheese, pine nuts, and garlic to the processor container. Pulse until the mixture is well-blended and forms a sandy texture, about 30 seconds.⅔ cup parmigiano-reggiano, ½ cup pecorino romano, 2 garlic cloves
- Add roasted red peppers and basil - Add roasted red peppers and basil to the container and blend. Stream in olive oil while blending, then season with salt to taste. Enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container and refrigerate.12 oz roasted red peppers, ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Drain the red peppers thoroughly before adding them to the food processor or the excess water will make the pesto too wet and dilute the flavor.
- Do not turn your back on the pine nuts while they are cooking because they can burn easily!
- Use a baking spatula to scrape all of the red pesto sauce from the food processor to eliminate food waste.
- If you store leftover pesto, be sure to mix it again before using it because the ingredients can separate while stored.
- Use almonds or walnuts instead of pesto for a similar result.