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Pesto Calabrese

Pesto Calabrese

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  • Author: Liz Thomson
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 6 cups 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian Inspired
  • Diet: Vegetarian


This tasty pesto calabrese is a deliciously spicy, savory sauce! This type of pesto is made with roasted red peppers and spicy pepper flakes, perfect for your next pasta night!


Units Scale
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1/2 teaspoon Calabrian chili paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 8oz short pasta such as ziti, penne, or fusilli


  1. Add the olive oil and bell peppers to a large skillet, cover, and cook over medium-high heat for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the peppers have softened.
  2. Add the chopped onion, tomato, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt and cook for 4-5 minutes.
  3. ​Allow the pepper mixture to cool slightly, then transfer it to a food processor or blender.
  4. Blend the pepper mixture with the ricotta, basil, Parmesan cheese, and vinegar until smooth.
  5. ​Add additional salt to taste, if needed.
  6. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water.
  7. Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce in a large bowl until combined. Add additional pasta water to thin the sauce, if needed.
  8. Top with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.