Okay, enough is enough: I’ve been stalling on sharing this recipe with you, because I simply could not describe this roasted red pepper and hazelnut pesto in such a way as to do it justice. I mean, if I just told you, “It’s really good and you should try it,” would you be convinced? Probably not. (If, however, you are convinced by that alone, you are wonderful and I love you for trusting me so blindly!)
I made this pesto shortly before heading home to California for the holidays, and to be honest, I was kind of miffed about leaving before I got to enjoy the leftovers. Sure, I could claim that I was just trying to be a nice girlfriend by ensuring that the boyfriend had some fixings for a good meal in the fridge, but in reality, A) the boyfriend can (and does) cook just fine, and B) I’m not that selfless. Not when it comes to food, anyway. Whenever he says, “Go ahead, have the last/bigger/prettier piece of cake/pizza/etc.,” my response is, “Are you sur—OKAY, thanks!” Nom nom nom.
So anyway, as we sat and savored this red pepper and hazelnut pesto on my last evening in Michigan, instead of talking about the upcoming holidays or reflecting on the past year or even just simply enjoying each other’s company, I peppered the boyfriend with questions like, “How would you describe this pesto?” and “What adjectives come to mind?” He was not much help. So here’s what I’ve got:
- it has a mild, natural sweetness from both the roasted red peppers and the hazelnuts
- it feels robust and, in a way, honest: nothing too complicated, just high-quality ingredients
- it’s a fun alternative to traditional marinara sauce for pasta, yet it’s still classic enough to qualify as comfort food
If you make this (and you definitely should!), I’d love to hear about it! Especially if, you know, you have descriptive words in mind. In all seriousness, though, if you make this or any other recipe, please do report back: leave a comment on the blog, contact me through social media, send me an email…whatever is most convenient for you. It always makes my day to hear that someone tried and enjoyed one of my dishes—and even if something doesn’t quite tickle your fancy, I’m all ears for suggestions about how to improve it!
- 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 1 shallot, chopped medium
- 1/4 cup + 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts, roasted (+ extra for sprinkling on top)
- 2 red bell peppers, roasted and roughly chopped (or 1 12-ounce jar, rinsed and patted dry)
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (+ extra for sprinkling on top)
- salt and pepper
- 1 pound pasta
- Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.
- In a small skillet, toast the garlic over medium heat until it becomes fragrant and develops small brown spots, about 7 minutes, shaking the skillet periodically. Transfer the garlic to a plate to cool for several minutes before peeling it.
- Optional (if you don’t like the taste of raw shallots, be sure to do this step!): while the garlic is cooling, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in the skillet for 1-2 minutes. When it shimmers, sauté the chopped shallot until translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
- Place the roasted hazelnuts in a food processor and pulse until they resemble a paste. Add the peeled garlic, shallots, roasted red peppers, remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, and parmesan to the food processor and process until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir the pesto into the drained pasta. Top individual portions with extra hazelnuts and parmesan.
- Place an oven rack 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler for 5 minutes.
- Slice off the top and bottom 1/4 inch of each pepper. Remove the stems from the top pieces and discard them. Make a slit down one side of each pepper, then remove all the ribs and seeds. Press the pepper flat on a foil-lined baking sheet, skin-side up. Place the top and bottom pieces on the baking sheet as well, skin-side up.
- Broil until the skin is charred, about 9 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet after half of the time has passed.
- Transfer the peppers to a large bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let sit for 10 minutes. Peel and discard the skins.
- The amounts listed will yield enough pesto to sauce 1 pound of pasta. I used pappardelle, but feel free to use any shape you wish.
- You can roast both the hazelnuts and the red peppers ahead of time. Store the roasted red peppers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- If you are roasting both the hazelnuts and red peppers at home, the time estimate is 1 hour, as listed. If you buy both from the store, the time estimate is 20 minutes.
I’m sharing this recipe at Fiesta Friday.