Both my boys are big fans of traditional basil pesto, but I’ve grown tired of it after having it just about every week for the past ten years. I’ve been trying different recipes for red pepper pesto and think I have finally cracked it with this one – it’s a combination of elements and methods from several recipes with a couple of twists of my own.
5 red peppers
1 medium red onion, very finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 generous tbsp olive oil
50g pine nuts
pinch of sea salt
optional: chilli flakes
Farfalle or any pasta you like – short pasta is better for scooping up the sauce from the plate
Shredded basil and parmesan for serving
Quarter, trim and deseed the peppers, put them cut-side-down on a big baking sheet and put them under a hot grill (broiler) until blackened – 10 to 15 minutes. Put them in a Ziploc bag or a covered bowl to sweat until cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small skillet, add the onions and cook over a low heat until translucent. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for a further 8-10 minutes, until they only just start to turn golden. If you are serving this to people who like a bit of a kick, you could add some chilli flakes when you are sautéing the onion and garlic. Set aside.
Toast the pine nuts in a small skillet over a low flame until they start to brown. Set aside.
When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel them. You are only taking the thin outer membrane off, so just rub them with your fingers and it should come away easily enough. It doesn’t matter if there are a few small patches where it won’t come off, as is often the case around the edges where it hasn’t blackened.
Put the peppers, onions and garlic (including any residual oil), pine nuts and mascarpone into a food processor or blender and purée. Salt to taste.
When the pasta is done, drain and return it to the pot, add the pesto and stir through well. Sprinkle with basil and parmesan before serving.
This makes enough to serve with pasta for 5 people.