This recipe is part muhammara (roasted peppers + garlic + walnuts) and part pesto (basil + garlic + Parmesan). A few things that influenced my decision to go down this eclectic route – I wanted something that would keep for a while: seven large peppers would make a bigger batch than we would be able to consume in one or two meals. I was also after something with a spread/dip/pasta sauce versatility. Muhammara would be great as a dip, but that didn’t quite cut it. Regular pesto uses pine nuts (I do almonds instead), so using walnuts here for bulk seemed to tie in nicely. A few simple ingredients that make the end result so much more than the sum of its parts.
Versatility was definitely achieved! Use as a dip with crackers, in soups to boost flavour, as a sauce to toss pasta through, and our favourite – slathered on bread, topped with fresh tomatoes, extra cheese and fresh basil, and grilled. Best toastie combo.
Peppers can be roasted in advance. Ask me, I had them roasted and sitting in the fridge for a week before I made up my mind on what to make with them. You’d use oil, typically a lot of oil for both muhammara and pesto but I didn’t add any. The peppers and nuts provided enough moisture to bring it together to a good consistency. If it looks a bit drier than you’d like, add a bit of oil to loosen. Go by eye.
ROASTED RED PEPPER AND WALNUT PESTO
- 7-8 large red peppers
- 1 cup basil leaves
- ¼ cup walnuts
- 2 small or 1 large clove of garlic
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan
- Freshly grated black pepper
- Salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 180 C. Place the peppers whole on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 45 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Once cool enough to handle, peel off the papery skins and discard. Cut into the pepper, remove seeds and inner white membrane and discard these.
- Add the peppers and all other ingredients to a blender and blend until nearly smooth but still with a little texture. I like it this way, but blend to a smoother consistency if you prefer. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add a touch of olive oil if it appears too dry.
- Decant into jars and refrigerate for up to 7 days. Can be frozen for up to 6 months.