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  • Writer's picturePasta Grammar

Spicy Calabrian Pesto | Pesto Calabrese Recipe

Updated: Jun 6

While most people are familiar with "pesto alla Genovese," there are actually several different varieties of pesto in Italy. One of our favorites is spicy Calabrian pesto, or "pesto Calabrese." It's incredibly delicious and very easy to make! It can be used as a pasta sauce, as a dip, or spread on a sandwich as a condiment.

Watch the Pasta Grammar video where we make this recipe here:

To make the pesto, you will need:

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 white onion, chopped

  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped

  • 25 cherry tomatoes, halved

  • Salt

  • Fresh black pepper

  • Chili powder or red pepper flakes to taste

  • 4-6 fresh basil leaves

  • 7 oz. (200g) ricotta cheese, or to taste

  • 1.75 oz. (50g) grated pecorino cheese, or to taste

  • Dried oregano (optional)

For 2 servings of pasta, you will also need:

  • 5.5 oz. (155g) fusilli pasta (or other short pasta, such as penne or rigatoni)

  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

  • Grated pecorino cheese for topping

  • Crushed pistachio nuts for topping (optional)

Bring the olive oil up to medium temperature in a large skillet and add the chopped onion. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, or until the onion is slightly tender and transparent. Add the bell peppers and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

After 10 minutes, add the halved cherry tomatoes, a pinch of salt and pepper, and chili powder or red pepper flakes to taste. Let the peppers continue to cook until they are very tender, about 10-15 minutes.

Transfer the peppers into a blender along with the basil. Blend into a purée and transfer into a mixing bowl. Stir in the ricotta, pecorino and (optionally) a pinch of dried oregano. Taste the pesto and add salt and/or pepper to taste.

The pesto is now finished! It will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.

To make 2 servings of pasta, add one ladleful of warm or room temperature pesto into a large bowl and mix in 1 tbsp of olive oil. Cook the pasta as directed, drain it, and transfer into the bowl. Mix all together and serve, topped with grated pecorino and (optionally) crushed pistachio nuts.

Buon appetito!

Want more pesto recipes? Check out our Sicilian Pesto alla Trapanese recipe or Aggiadda, the ancestor to the classic basil Pesto alla Genovese!

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