Most people associate “pesto” with basil pesto, also known as pesto Genovese, a mixture of basil, Parmiggiano-Reggiano, garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil. The term “pesto” just means “smashed” or “beaten,” and can refer to any sauce made from pureed ingredients in an emulsion with oil. On my last trip to Italy nine years ago, my wife had pasta with olive pesto in a little restaurant in Assisi, and liked it so much that we went back the next night so she could have it again. My personal favorite non-basil pesto is one with roasted red peppers.
This is ridiculously easy to make if you just want to use jarred roasted red peppers, although roasting your own is easy – do it on a grill or in a 400 degree oven until the skin of the pepper is charred (not burned to ash), then let it rest in a bowl with foil covering it for ten minutes, then peel the skin off. To use them for this recipe, make sure the peppers have no seeds or rib meat remaining.
1 roasted red pepper
1 clove garlic, pressed or chopped
3 Tbsp pecorino romano cheese, grated
3-4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
pinch salt, pepper, crushed dried chili pepper (optional)
Puree the first three ingredients, then gradually add the olive oil while continuing to puree to form an emulsion. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper as desired. Serve over pasta (with grilled chicken, if you like) or use in place of tomato sauce on pizza.