Roasted Red Pepper Pesto (DF)

Simple ingredients make beautiful food.


Sauces and condiments allow us to play with our food, and there's nothing I love more than a good sauce.  I grew up in a house where sauce was always made from scratch, and you licked the spoon (a lot) while cooking.  While I would not recommend doing that while cooking for others, I do still love licking the spoon and making sauce from scratch.  Packaged, pre-made ones are filled with added sweeteners, low quality oils, shelf-stabilizers and generally unnecessary additives. 

When you realize just how easy it is to make your own, and how much better it tastes, trust me - you'll be on board too.  This gem of a recipe came to me one afternoon while dreaming up ideas in the kitchen.  It's fast, uncomplicated, and you can literally put it on anything.  Use it as a base for a salad dressing, spread it on toast, have it with eggs, toss it with your favorite pasta, dollop it on a pizza along wiht fresh ricotta.  As they say, the world is your oyster.

Unlike most traditional pesto recipes, this one uses no cheese, so instead I blend in both pistachios and cashews to add complexity and creaminess.  Pesto also typically calls for pine nuts, but changing that up here brings a whole new dimension to the sauce, and despite being dairy free, once you taste it you will be surprised at how rich and creamy it is.  

The real beauty in this recipe, however, lies in the homemade roasted red peppers -- an ingredient which, once again, is all too easy to purchase in a jar, but not much more difficult to make yourself at home.  There is something so special about making certain pantry staples - ones we so often purchase in a jar, but can easily duplicate for half the price at home (i.e., homemade nut butters and nut milks!). Also, the depth and sweetness of homemade roasted peppers definitely surpasses that of the store bought kind.


Adding a food processor to your kitchen expands the possibility and potential for making these homemade staples, like nut butters, salsas and sauces.  Not only can you control exactly what goes into your food, you can make as much or as little as you want.  Because how many times have you purchased an entire jar of a specialty condiment or sauce only to use it once and let the rest go bad at the back of your fridge?  Make just 1 cup of this pesto and you'll be surprised that a little goes a long way, so no need to waste.  And when you get towards the end of a batch, add a little extra virgin olive oil and toss it on warm, al dente spaghetti.

Lastly, you will notice that in my recipe below I call for "a handful" of nuts and "large pinches" of salt.  This is because  my intention is to share my recipes with you in exactly the same way that I cook them, which is by feeling my way through.  While baking is a science, I do not believe that cooking always has to be.  Start with just a little salt, or a little garlic, or a little heat, and you can always add more!  Dive into this pesto with an adventurous spirit.  Cooking is about having fun after all, and reaping the benefits of a home cooked meal afterwards.

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto (Dairy Free)

Renders 1 cup concentrated Pesto

  • 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, cut in half
  • 2 large pinches sea salt (salt to taste)
  • Handful shelled pistachios
  • Handful raw cashews
  • 2 Red Holland Bell peppers
  • 1 cup loosely packed & washed fresh basil leaves

The first and most important step of this recipe is roasting your peppers! Surely you could use the store bought kind, but roasting your own is even more delicious -- and doesn't take long! Wash and take off any store stickers from your Red Hollands -- these are a beautiful bright red variety of red bell pepper, but regular bells will work too if you can't find them. Turn your oven on to the high broil setting and let it heat up. Once hot, place your peppers inside the oven on a baking sheet. You'll need to babysit them a little bit from here on out: every 5-10 minutes, poke your head in the oven and check that the skin of the pepper has bubbled and gotten slightly charred on the side facing up. Once it has, use tongs or a clean oven mitt to rotate the pepper, allowing it to blacken on the next side. Continue to rotate and turn both peppers until they have bubbled and slightly charred all around. Keep in mind - this does not mean burnt! You just want spots of charred skin - not a completely charred pepper!

Once the peppers are done roasting, take them out of the oven and immediately place them in a Ziploc bag and leave sealed for about 20-30 minutes (you can also use a closed tupperware here). This allows for the pepper to cool down enough to handle, and for the skin to become more easy to peel away from the rest of the pepper. 

Once cooled, take the peppers out of the bag or tupperware. They will be very soft. You should be able to easily pull the stems out from the peppers, and make sure to remove all seeds that don't come out along with the stem. Next peel the skin off the outside of the peppers. Discard the stems, seeds and peels. Cut your cleaned up peppers into large/medium slices and place to the side. If you have not purchased pre-washed basil, wash approximately 1 cup of loosely packed basil leaves. The leaves do not need to be perfectly trimmed from the stems, as it will all be puréed. Lastly, grab your large clove of garlic, remove the skin, and cut in half.

Now we can start to throw our ingredients into the food processor. Add your 1 handful of pistachios. 1 handful of raw cashews, 2 large pinches of sea salt, garlic clove, roasted red pepper, clean basil and olive oil - and purée away!!! This recipe can be adjusted as you go, so if you prefer more olive oil, add more olive oil. If it's not salty enough, add another pinch of salt. Really love garlic? Throw in another clove! And when it's all done, go have fun and get creative with this sauce!