Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Pesto Calabrese

My favourite pesto to add to pasta is Barilla's Pesto alla Calabrese. Its a spicy creamy sauce that's a little sweet and perfect over fish or shellfish as well. If I'm in a hurry for dinner, I open a bottle of this. If I'm really in a hurry for dinner, I make risoni which cooks quickly and spoons easily into a hungry mouth.

I love it so much that I thought I should try to re-create it on my own. I figured that I could just go by the proportion of ingredients listed on the label and take it from there. The
peppers I used were very sweet after being cooked but did not pack any heat so I had to add in a chilli as well. However, I needed more heat so I tossed in some chilli powder too.

I'm also submitting this to Ruth at Once Upon a Feast for Presto Pasta Night #25.

Pesto Calabrese
makes about 3 cups or about 4 servings

2 large red peppers or capsicum
1 small onion
3 tbs olive oil
1 chilli, deseeded
250g or 1 1/2 cups ricotta
100g or 1/2 cup grated pecorino or parmesan
1 tsp salt or more to taste
1 tsp chilli powder (optional)

Chop up the peppers and onion into bite-sized pieces and stir fry with 1 tablespoon of olive oil until cooked. In a food processor, blend together the peppers and onion to get about 1 cup of puree. Continue blending this with the rest of the ingredients. Spoon over cooked pasta or refrigerate until ready to use. Serve with more grated cheese or chopped cilantro.

Verdict: Very close to the bottled version and so easy to make! I mixed cooked peeled prawns into the sauce and had it over the pasta. I'm going to freeze the extra and see of it's still good.


Ruth Daniels said...

Kudos to you for trying to create your own version of a bottled variety.

Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights. Hope to see you back with more creations.

eatme_delicious said...

that looks really good. good for you for recreating a bottled favourite sauce! i'd be scared to try doing that.

Per Edman said...

I am so doing this. Pesto Calabrese is my favorite too, I need to be able to do it myself or I'll ruin the food account. :)

cari said...

I'm excited to try your version. This is my very favorite sauce that I used to eat when I lived in Italy. Where can you buy it? I've tried Italian import stores but have been unable to find it.

Anonymous said...

Last time I checked you can't find it in US stores. I emailed barilla awhile back and they said they only sold it in Italy. www.italybymail.com has it though! Hope this helps!

mjb86 said...

I just came home from a year studying in Italy and already I really miss the Barilla pesto Calabrese. Thank you for the recipe! I was kicking myself for not bringing a jar or two with me.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU for this!!! I used to make have pasta with Barilla's Pesto Calabrese a lot in Switzerland - itt was basically my main comfort food. But can't find it here in the USA, and the Calabrese they have at Wholefoods is crazy expensive... But now I can make my own! Thank you!!!

Frank Sheeran said...

I had this in Switzerland almost weekly and loved it.

I've ordered several dozen bottles from italybymail.com, but prefer to make it fresh. Here's my recipe.

4-6 servings

4 red peppers (or 3 red 1 yellow, etc.) (500g after removing vanes and seeds)

85g onion, roughly cut
80g (5-6T or 3/8 cup) olive oil (not only for frying but is an ingredient)
3 thinly sliced garlic
1 chili pepper, finely chopped
20g tomato paste
2 chicken bouillon (or 1 tsp salt?)
1 tsp oregano
120g cheese (mostly ricotta, but maybe 20g parmesan? try some feta?? Pecorino Romano is made from sheep’s milk and may be good.)
lemon juice?
(optional) pine nuts or walnuts?

Cut pepper into quarters. Remove stems, vanes and seeds. Roast shiny-side up at 200C 14 minutes, then check every two minutes and move blackening pieces to cooler spots. Within 20 minutes all should have some black. When all have at least a touch of browning or blackening, place in a pot with a tight lid and leave for 20 minutes to “steam” while they cool. (This loosens their skins.)

While peppers are roasting or cooling, fry onions in 1-2T of the oil, medium temperature (4 out of 7), until transparent and slightly caramelized. Add garlic and sauté until just turning gold. Add chicken bouillon, oregano, tomato sauce, and rest of the oil. When that’s hot and mixed, add and melt cheese, then place in food processor with chopper blade.

Peel peppers. Add peppers to processor and chop 6-10 minutes or until quite smooth. Finally adjust taste with salt, pepper, maybe a splash lemon juice.

Frank Sheeran said...

I should have mentioned the ingredient ratios:

Peppers: Barilla has 38.2% (according to label), I have 45%.

Oil: Barilla has somewhere between 15-38% (can't tell from label), I have 14%.

Cheese: Barilla has 17.4% (according to label), I have 22%.

Onion: Barilla has 11-14% (can't tell from label), I have 15%.

Tomato paste: Barilla has 1.5-11% (can't tell from label), I have 3.5%.

Barilla additionally has 11-14% glucose syrup, which I suppose you could use if you're trying to duplicate their taste and texture, but I believe its partly also to cut cost. This is one way the home-made sauce is better.

As an engineer, it was easy to "solve" for the ingredient amounts, given that the label lists them in descending order and it has to add up to 100%...