Penne with Red Pepper Pesto (Pesto Calabrese)
Why This Recipe Works
Pesto alla calabrese trades the familiar basil–pine nut base of the Genovese style for ricotta, Parmesan, and a combination of sweet and hot peppers. For complex flavor, we used cooked red bell peppers, sautéing them—first covered to soften and then uncovered to develop flavorful browning—and then adding one raw red bell pepper for fresh, fruity bite. For heat, we substituted hard-to-find Calabrian chiles with dried red pepper flakes. We also added fresh tomato, onion, garlic, and basil to the pepper mixture for further complexity. A modest amount of cheese—a 2:1 ratio of ricotta to Parmesan—added richness, salty tang, and creamy body without dulling the vegetables’ flavor.