Flavorful, veggie-packed vegan red pepper pesto comes together in the time it takes your pasta to boil. It's a totally addictive vegan pasta sauce!
Roasted red pepper pesto is a flavorful pasta sauce that's perfect tossed with fettuccine or your favorite pasta!
The recipe below transforms this pesto into a 15-minute dinner that's perfect for busy weeknights. And it's a total crowd-pleaser, too!
Ingredients and substitutions
- fettuccine - I love the way the red pepper pesto clings to this long, flat pasta, but feel free to use your favorite pasta of choice instead.
- baby spinach - The spinach is optional, but I do love the way a green veggie pairs with this sauce. Use other quick-cooking greens, if you prefer. You can also use one to two cups of thawed, frozen spinach instead, and just toss it into the sauce and pasta at the end.
- roasted red peppers - I use roasted red peppers from a jar, but you're welcome to roast them yourself. If you want to do it from scratch, roast two red bell peppers, let them cool, and remove the skin before using.
- nuts - Nuts and pesto go hand in hand. You can use cashews, walnuts, almonds, or pine nuts. For nut-free, use pumpkin seeds.
- olive oil - Choose a good, extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor!
- garlic - Fresh garlic gives this pesto an amazing flavor! Use two large of four small cloves.
- red wine vinegar - Vinegar adds a little acidity and zing to this pesto. Start with a little bit of vinegar, and add more to taste. This will depend on your personal tastes, the nuts you use, and how tangy the peppers are to start.
- sliced black olives - I just love the way olives add heartiness and flavor to this dish! You can omit them, if needed.
- magical fairy dust - This is my homemade vegan Parmesan cheese, and it is ah-MAZING for topping this red pepper pesto pasta! You can use store-bought vegan Parmesan instead, if you like
How to make red pepper pesto
Cook the pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile, place the spinach in your colander. When the pasta is done cooking, drain it over the spinach, tossing them together until the spinach wilts.
While the pasta is cooking, you have plenty of time to make the red pepper pesto sauce.
Combine all of the sauce ingredients (start with one tablespoon of the vinegar) in your food processor and run it until you have an even mixture. You can go for a chunkier pesto, like I did, or keep running until it's smooth and creamy.
If you want this pesto to be totally smooth, make it in your blender instead of the food processor.
Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add the second tablespoon of vinegar, if you want it more tangy.
To serve, transfer the pasta-spinach mixture to a large serving bowl and toss with the red pepper pesto and sliced olives. Serve hot, topped with fairy dust.
Serving and storage directions
You can add a 15-ounce can (1 ¾ cups cooked) drained kidney beans, white beans, or chickpeas, if you want some extra protein. Just toss them in when you add the olives.
Like a more conventional pesto, you can serve this red pepper version tossed with pasta, like I did here, but there are so many delicious applications for a good pesto like this one:
- Use it as a decadent sauce in place of tomato sauce in a lasagna.
- Serve it in a bowl with plenty of fresh, warm, crusty bread for dipping.
- Spread it onto your next sandwich or wrap instead of mayo.
- Use it in place of pizza sauce.
- Spread it onto bread slices for pesto crostini.
- Use it as a sauce for your next vegan bowl
Leftover red pepper pesto will keep for three to four days in the fridge.
You can also freeze the sauce for up to six months! Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or for a few hours on the kitchen counter, then stir well and warm in the microwave before tossing with pasta.
Frequently asked questions
Before we get to the recipe, let's talk about what pesto even is. Typically, it's a green sauce starring basil, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese. This red pepper pesto recipe is a little bit offbeat, but its roots are in a traditional pesto.
It's a lot of fun to mix up pestos, and I do it all the time! Really, any sauce that's a combination of herbs, nuts or seeds, oil, garlic, something acidic (like lemon or vinegar), and a cheesy element (like nutritional yeast).
More vegan pesto recipes
Vegan Red Pepper Pesto
- 6-8 ounces fettuccini
- 6 cups baby spinach - or other quick-wilting greens
- 1 12 ounce jar roasted red peppers - drained
- ¾ cup packed fresh basil leaves and stems
- ½ cup cashews, walnuts, almonds, or pine nuts - Use pumpkin seeds for nut-free.
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2-4 cloves garlic - depending on size. Use 2 cloves if they're large, 4 if they're small.
- 1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar - to taste
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast - optional
- 2.25 ounce can sliced black olives
- 1 batch Magical Fairy Dust - for topping, optional
Cook the pasta and spinach.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions. Place the spinach in your colander, and drain the pasta over the spinach, tossing them together until the spinach wilts.
Make the pesto while the pasta cooks.
- Combine all of the sauce ingredients (start with 1 tablespoon of the vinegar) in your food processor and run it until you have an even mixture. You can go for a chunkier pesto, like I did, or keep running until it's smooth and creamy. If you want this pesto to be totally smooth, make it in your blender instead of the food processor.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add the second tablespoon of vinegar, if you want it more tangy.
- To serve, transfer the pasta-spinach mixture to a large serving bowl and toss with the red pepper pesto and sliced olives. Serve hot, topped with fairy dust.
- food processor or blender