This smokey red pepper and eggplant pesto pasta is inspired by the leftover roasted on open fire vegetables that we usually have in our house after a bbq day. And because red roasted peppers are one of my favorites I couldn't resist using them in a recipe.
Summer is the best time for BBQ. In Greece, when we say BBQ we commonly mean charcoal. In my family's case, this also means starting the fire with wood and letting it become charcoal.
Open fire is great for roasting vegetables (eggplants or peppers) and then using them as a side dish or a salad. And if you have a lot of vegetables out of your garden you can always roast and keep them throughout the week.
What was the inspiration for this recipe?
Typically all herbs and veggies that are made into a paste are a pesto. This recipe is not an exception.
It is a fusion of Ajvar (Balkans) and Muhammara (Middle Eastern) sauce with the addition of cheese and basil typical in Italian pesto.
I first tasted ajvar in Croatia while on vacation and it stuck with me. Muhammara is also one of my favorite dips. Meaty from the walnuts, sweet from the peppers, and pomegranate. When you combine all of these flavors, the end result is such an amazing sauce that can elevate a simple pasta dish.
Ingredients for the smokey red pepper and eggplant pesto pasta
Peppers: Use roasted peppers on an open fire for smokiness. Any type of sweet red pepper can work in this recipe (bell, Palermo, red horn, Florinis).
Eggplant: Roasted on an open fire, cleaned from their skin, and drained. I am using graffiti or Italian eggplants.
Walnuts: They add good oils to the dish and give a meaty flavor.
Sun-dried tomatoes: Use them for the saltiness and the sweet tangy flavor.
Cheese: I am using kefalotyri. A hard salty cheese from Greece made from goat or sheep milk. You can substitute it with parmesan. Use plant-based Parmesan cheese if you want to make this recipe vegan or dairy-free. You can always omit the cheese.
Herbs & Spices: Basil adds a fresh tone to the dish while garlic makes it fragrant. Salt and pepper are always added to give more flavor and paprika powder is added for extra smokiness.
Tips & tricks
Wash, dry, and pinch (pierce) the eggplants with a fork, before roasting them. This ensures that the eggplants are not going to explode.
Roast the eggplants and peppers in the oven grill, on a gas burner, or on an open fire (charcoal).
Use some of the eggplant and pepper juices to make the sauce thinner and tastier.
You can always use a pestle and mortar to make the pesto sauce but it takes longer.
How to serve the smokey red pepper and eggplant pesto pasta
Coat the spaghetti or any other type of pasta with the sauce and serve it with:
- Fresh basil on top, sprinkled with extra kefalotyri
- Sprinkle some chili flakes
- Top it with some extra cheese and walnuts
- Add some more sundried tomatoes
- Drizzle with some olive oil
- Use some olive rings for extra saltiness and flavor
How to store the smokey red pepper and eggplant pesto pasta
Store the sauce, using an airtight container, in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Freeze the sauce, in an airtight container, for up to 2 months. Thaw it and use a non-stick pan or the pasta pot with some water (preferably from the pasta) to heat the sauce.
Store the pasta dish, in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
I don't recommend freezing the complete pasta dish.
Are you a pasta lover?
Try also these:
Smokey Red Pepper & Eggplant Pesto Pasta
- Food processor
- 500 g/17.6 oz spaghetti gluten-free
- 1 medium eggplant roasted
- 6 large red sweet Palermo peppers roasted
- 6 sundried tomatoes
- 75 g/2.6 oz walnuts
- 100 g/3.5 oz Kefalotyri or parmesan
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoon olive oil extra virgin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika powder
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
- 10 g/0.35 oz basil leaves
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt optional
- Boil the pasta according to the package instructions.
- Place all ingredients in a food processor and mix until incorporated.
- Drain the pasta (but keep 1 cup of water) and drizzle with some olive oil.
- Add the sauce to the pasta pot and let it simmer at low heat, until it's warm. Use as much of the kept pasta water to make the sauce as thick or thin as you want.
- Put the pasta back in the pot and mix it with the sauce.
- Serve with toppings of choice.
Servings: 1 (356g) | Calories: 577kcal | Carbohydrates: 89g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 15.5g | Saturated Fat: 2.2g | Trans Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 307mg | Potassium: 860mg | Fiber: 12.4g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 5482IU | Vitamin C: 211.9mg | Calcium: 188mg | Iron: 3.54mg | Phosphorus: 382mg | Manganese: 1.547mg | Selenium: 61μg