Monday, February 20, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut “Pesto”

Since I got my Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman, I couldn’t wait to start making the first recipe for the Food Matters Project. Everyone else on the team has already made two, so I’m a little late here.

This week, Heather of girlichef, chose the recipe… Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Pesto. Click on her website for the original recipe. Thank you for this great pick, Heather!

Fresh Herb Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Walnut Pesto

I made a couple of modifications with my pesto. One of the modifications happened because I did not read the directions very well. According to the directions, the bell peppers should be roasted whole and then it's easier to skin them. Darn, I cut all eight peppers into strips. Ooops! When they’re cut in pieces, removing the skin is NOT an easy task, so I just decided to forget the skinning part and carried on. Making this pesto without skinning the roasted peppers worked out just fine though. Thank goodness! Also, walnuts already have natural oil in them, so I decided to use just ¼ cup of olive oil instead of ½ cup. Because I love garlic, I went with 4 cloves instead of the recommended 2 and it’s wonderful.  

After reading about all the pasta with pesto sauce recipes in various food blogs, I decided to do the same for this roasted red pepper and walnut pesto. I made fresh herb pasta from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food. Usually, I love vegetables in my pasta but because I wanted to experience the full flavors of this pesto, I roasted vegetables instead and had them on the side. Roasted red pepper and walnut pesto is wonderful with pasta. Sprinkle the top with some freshly grated Pecorino Romano or parmesan cheese and you have a wonderful dish, simple and rich at the same time, with nutty goodness, bright bites of garlic, and subtle hints of basil.

Fresh Herb Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Pesto (makes 2 servings)
Adapted from Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food

2 cups roasted red pepper and walnut pesto (visit girlichef for the recipe)

For the fresh herb pasta:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary and thyme, chopped
1 egg
1 egg yolk

Pecorino Romano, freshly grated

Pour the flour and herbs in a small mixing bowl. Using a whisk, mix together well.  

Beat the eggs in another small bowl. Pour the beaten eggs into the flour bowl and mix with a fork until all the flour is soaked. Eventually it will be too thick to mix and small clumps of flour will form. Get rid of the fork and continue mixing by hand.

Move the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it. If the dough is too dry, add a few drops of water until it starts to come together. Shape the dough into a small ball and wrap it in plastic. Before you start rolling it out, let the dough rest for at least an hour (I was in a time crunch and only let it rest for about 10 minutes and it was fine).   

Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough as thinly as possible. This is quite a challenging feat, but it is very important to keep it super thin. Fresh pasta will fatten up when cooked and the inside won’t cook as well if it’s too thick. So, again, roll the dough until it is flat and super-duper thin.

Cut the flattened dough however way you want to cut it. I cut it in linguini strips and then cut the long strips into thirds so they cook faster.  

Fill a medium sauce pan 2/3 full of water and add salt to taste. Bring the water to a rolling boil and add the pasta. Stir and cover the pan. Wait for it to boil again and uncover the pan. I’m not sure how long I cooked it for because it’s always longer than when the recipe says it should be done. So, just keep tasting it until you think it’s done the way you want it, tender or al dente. When it's done, drain the pasta (but save some of the water, you might want some in your sauce).  

Meanwhile, heat the roasted red pepper pesto in a large pan over medium low heat. When it is hot enough, add the cooked pasta. Mix until everything is well-combined. If you want a more liquidy sauce, add a couple tablespoons of the pasta water until it is to your desired consistency.

Serve immediately and sprinkle with freshly grated Pecorino Romano.

Some notes:

This pesto is pretty versatile and can be put in anything. Before I moved this pesto in a bowl, I started scraping the spoon off with crackers. Eating it just like that is perfect enough.

Then I used the pesto as a pizza sauce. Oh my, delicious! I used the pesto with fresh mozzarella cheese, blue cheese, pancetta, mushrooms, and onions. The pizza dough that I used was from this cookbook too. However, I didn't like it very much. The dough seemed to lack flavor, so if you have your own favorite pizza dough recipe, I would recommend that you stick with that. But again, aside from the not-so-great pizza dough, this pesto is wonderful as a pizza sauce.

Another night, I used this pesto as a base sauce for burritos. It was a great complement to all the other fillings.
Go ahead and make this pesto… you’ll love it! J


  1. I can just imagine how good this pesto was on homemade pasta - that's like a dream! All of your uses look happy you enjoyed it, to :D

    1. Thank you Heather! I have to be honest that at first, I was not so happy at how much pesto this recipe yielded, but in the end I'm glad I was able to use it in various ways. Great choice!

  2. Hi Margarita, I love all the different ways you used the pesto. I have a lot left so I'm thinking a breakfast burrito might be the ticket!

  3. Wow, I am impressed! Homemade pasta? YUM! and I love how creative you were with all of your uses :)

    1. Thank you! It really wasn't that hard to make the pasta. :)

  4. I am so impressed by your homemade pasta! Looks great. I've come across so many great uses for the pesto that I don't know what to try next!

    1. Thanks! I enjoyed making the pasta. I agree, everyone was so creative and I definitely enjoyed visiting their blogs to check out what they did.

  5. this recipe is awesome! thanks a lot for sharing!

    btw it would be nice if we could follow each other!

  6. Nothing beats homemade pasta. I love the pesto idea peppers sound fabulous. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. You're welcome Stephanie! It was for The Food Matters Project. You should check it out and join, it's fun!


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