Pesto pasta for dinner just got a little bit more exciting with this roasted red pepper pesto pasta recipe. Still super easy to bring together, so you will have dinner on the table in no time, but with a fun twist of flavor from the addition of roasted red peppers to make an indulgent pasta sauce. The red pepper pesto can be made up ahead of time and simply added to some freshly cooked pasta when it comes time to serve dinner.
If you love having a collection of quick weeknight dinners to choose from then try this One Pan Creamy Pesto Gnocchi Recipe or this Lightened Up Creamy Pasta Salad next. Both are easy dinners that will be enjoyed by the whole family.
Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Recipe
With all of the ease of a simple pesto and pasta meal, but a fun twist on flavor from the addition of roasted red peppers, this is a quick and easy dinner that will be on the table in no time.
It is also a super versatile dish, making it the perfect base recipe from which to dive in and make your own.
See serving suggestions below for some different ideas to suit you and your family.
You are going to need:
- dried spaghetti: we use spaghetti noodles for this recipe, however, linguine, fettuccine, or any other dried or fresh pasta of choice will work for this recipe. Choose your family's favorite pasta so you can be sure the whole family eats their dinner;
- a jar of roasted red bell peppers: these can be found in the grocery store alongside olives and other jarred goods. You can also sometimes get roasted peppers freshly made in the deli at some good grocery stores. For this recipe, we are going to drain the oil from the peppers, however, I would suggest keeping the oil and using it as a salad dressing or marinade (like in this recipe: Sheet Pan Greek Chicken and Vegetables). Do not rinse the peppers, we want to keep any residual oil on there for added flavor in the dish;
- store-bought basil pesto: I used a store-bought classic pesto for this recipe, however, you can use a homemade pesto of choice. If you are keeping this recipe vegan or dairy-free then be sure to buy a vegan pesto;
- extra virgin olive oil: you want a nice light flavored olive oil for this recipe as it makes up the base of the red pepper pesto sauce so you don't want anything too overpowering;
- kosher salt: this is optional depending on how salty your pesto is, so be sure to taste before adding any extra salt;
- freshly cracked black pepper;
- shaved parmesan: this is entirely optional. If you are using a vegan or dairy-free pesto and want the recipe to remain that way, then please feel free to leave this out or replace it with the vegan or dairy-free alternative. If you want to keep this dish vegan but like a bit of a cheesy twist then add a sprinkle of nutritional yeast before serving.
You can use a traditional pesto that you can find in the store, or choose from one of the homemade pesto recipes we have on the site:
- Carrot Top Pesto
- Fresh Oregano Pesto
- Fragrant Fennel Fronds Pesto
- Quick Kale Walnut Pesto with Sunflower Seeds
Note: whatever pesto you choose to use can alter the flavor of the pesto pasta and can also change the color of the overall pesto sauce depending on the color of the pesto. I used a traditional basil pesto for this recipe.
How To Make Pesto Pasta
Roasted red pepper pasta is such an easy recipe to bring together.
Simply cook the pasta according to the packet directions. This is going to change depending on whether you are using dried or fresh pasta, so check and cook accordingly.
Once it is cooked, drain the pasta, but be sure to reserve some of the pasta water. We are going to use this to turn the red pepper pesto into a pasta sauce, and using pasta water means that it will emulsify as it cooks, which gives us the perfect creamy texture.
Next, we need to make the roasted pepper pesto.
To do this simply add the drained roast peppers to a food processor along with the pesto and blend on low until relatively smooth. Once it is smooth slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the whole thing is blended together and has a sauce-like consistency.
Add the pesto sauce to a large skillet and cook on low until very gently simmering. Be careful here and move fast as the pesto can very quickly burn.
Once simmering, add in the cooked pasta and toss everything to combine, adding the pasta water as you toss.
The starchy water should begin to emulsify as it cooks, which creates that wonderfully creamy pesto sauce.
Turn off the heat, top with some freshly grated parmesan cheese and you are good to go.
Be sure to save some of the pasta water and use it in the dish. It emulsifies as it cooks, which will give us a nice creamy roasted pepper pesto sauce which clings to the pasta.
Serve with a couple of slices of fresh crunchy bread for mopping up the extra sauce.
Tip: Keep the burner on low and work fast. Pesto can burn easily and when it does, the basil taste can be unpleasant, so you will want to work quickly when tossing the pasta in the sauce. The only reason you have the burner on low is to keep it warm while you toss the pasta. You can also do this step in a large bowl if you can work quickly enough to prevent the sauce from getting cold.
Leftover red pepper pesto pasta should be allowed to cool to room temperature before being transferred to an airtight container and stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Leftovers can be eaten hot or cold, although you may have to add some water to loosen up the dish before serving, otherwise, the pasta will likely stick together.
If you reheat the dish on the stove or in the microwave be careful to do this slowly so as not to burn the sauce.
As a pasta dish, this is not good for freezing.
However, the roasted pepper pesto itself can be frozen and in fact, is super handy to have on hand in the freezer.
TIP: make up some extra roasted red pepper pesto and keep it in a glass jar in the fridge or freeze it in an ice cube tray. It will last for a long time in the freezer and make a great addition to so many meals. Add a cube to a hot pan before sautéeing vegetables, or drop it into soups or casseroles for an extra pop of flavor.
Roasted pepper pesto pasta is perfect all by itself with some freshly grated parmesan, a sprinkle of fresh basil, and some fresh crusty bread for mopping up the extra pesto sauce.
Personally, I like to add some red pepper flakes for a bit of kick as well.
However, it also lends itself well to being served with:
- grilled and sliced chicken breasts stirred through;
- roasted vegetables such as pumpkin and zucchini either stirred through or served on the side;
- a side of garlic pepper skillet green beans;
- a tin of drained tuna stirred through;
- a sprinkle of crumbled feta mixed through for extra creaminess;
- a simple side salad.
This dish really is quite versatile, so feel free to serve it in a way you think your family would love.
Tips, Tricks, and Substitutions
This is a super simple dish, however, there are some important tips you should definitely make sure you follow in order to achieve the best outcome.
Keeping the pasta water is very important. The starch in the pasta water is important for the emulsification process, and without it, we will not end up with the creaminess we are trying to get from the red pepper pesto sauce.
The dish will definitely still work with regular water instead of pasta water, it just won't be as creamy, and therefore not as good.
Use a food processor to blend the red peppers with the pesto, and blend until the whole thing is super smooth.
We are looking for a super smooth red pepper pesto sauce, so chunks of red peppers will throw the whole dish off.
If you are using store-bought basil pesto it is important to check the saltiness before adding more salt to the recipe. It is better to under salt rather than over salt, as the latter can be hard to fix.
TIP: don't have roasted red peppers on hand? Why not use some sun-dried tomatoes instead?
Frequently Asked Questions
Making a red pepper pesto sauce is super easy. Simply add pesto to a food processor, along with drained red peppers. Process until super smooth, adding in olive oil as the mixture processes.
You can also find pre-made roasted red pepper pesto in the shops, however, you may have to go to a specialty store to find it.
If you loved this easy meal then be sure to leave a 5 star recipe rating on the recipe card or a comment below.
Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Pasta
- 12 ounces (340g) spaghetti fresh or dried
- 1 jar roasted red peppers drained (see notes below)
- ½ cup basil pesto
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt (optional depending on how salty your pesto is)
- ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- shaved parmesan for serving (optional)
- Cook the spaghetti according to the package instructions. This will differ depending on whether you are using fresh or dried pasta. Once cooked drain the pasta, reserving ½ cup of the starchy pasta water.12 ounces (340g) spaghetti
- Add the drained roasted red peppers and pesto to a food processor. Close the lid and blend it on low speed. While the processor is on, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until it is all blended together into a smooth sauce.1 jar roasted red peppers, ½ cup basil pesto, ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Add the red pepper pesto to a large skillet on low heat. Add the cooked and drained pasta to the skillet and begin to toss it in the sauce. While tossing, slowly add in the starchy water. It will begin to emulsify and create a creamy sauce. Turn off the heat and season with salt and pepper.½ teaspoon kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- Serve warm with shaved parmesan (optional) and fresh crusty bread.shaved parmesan
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.