Penne with Red-Pepper Walnut Pesto

  • Yield 4 to 6 servings
  • Prep 15 mins
  • Cook 25 mins


2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes (dried, not oil-packed)
1/2 cup roasted, peeled red bell pepper (available prepared, in jars)
3/4 cup finely chopped California walnuts, toasted
-- leaves form 1 large bunch fresh basil, tough stems removed
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper, to taste
1 pound dried penne pasta
-- additional basil leaves for garnish
-- additional grated cheese for serving


Note: Pesto recipe can also be doubled; freeze other half and use within a month. When storing, top pesto with some additional extra-virgin olive oil to keep it from drying out.

  1. To make the pesto, place the garlic cloves in medium saucepan, cover with about 2 inches of water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, until the garlic has softened but is not mushy.  Remove the garlic using a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.   Add the sun dried tomatoes to the garlic water, return to a boil, then cover and simmer over low heat for 8 – 10 minutes. Remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and set aside on paper towels to drain.         
  2. Place the garlic and tomatoes in a food processor fitted with the metal blade.  Add the red pepper, walnuts, basil leaves and cheese, and process until very finely chopped.  Add the oil in 2 or 3 additions, stopping after each to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Continue to process until the pesto becomes a thick, smooth paste.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Scrape the pesto into a large bowl and set aside. 
  3. Cook the penne in a large pot of boiling, salted water for 10 – 12 minutes, or according to package directions, until just tender.    Drain well, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water. 
  4. Add the penne to the pesto and toss to coat.  Add the reserved pasta cooking water, a few tablespoons at a time (you will probably not need the entire cup), and continue tossing until the penne is coated in an even, creamy layer of pesto.  Garnish with basil leaves, and pass additional grated cheese at the table.

Recipe courtesy of Carrie Hornbeck



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