Pesto with a twist: Roasted red pepper sauce with basil and parmesan

Pack an antioxidant punch with this slightly different take on the traditional pesto sauce. This pasta sauce omits the pine nuts, but is just as pleasing to the eye, as it is to one’s taste buds.  Roasted peppers and onions are blended with fresh parmesan cheese and basil before incorporating into garlic infused crushed tomatoes.

Yield: 5, 1/2 cup servings


  • 1 cup each, red, green, and orange or red bell peppers diced,  + 2 tbsp, cut into very thin julienne strips for garnish
  • 1 medium onion, diced

Fresh chopped garlic

Fresh shredded parmesan

  • 6 medium garlic cloves or about 2 tbsp, freshly chopped
  • 2 cups, no salt added Hunt’s crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped basil + 1 tbsp for garnish
  • 1/2 cup fresh shredded parmesan cheese + 2 tbsp for garnish
  • 1/2 tsp + 1/4 tsp table salt (or per taste)


  1. Preheat oven to 390 degrees.
  2. Toss diced onions and peppers with 1 tbsp olive oil and the 1/4 tsp salt in a bowl.


    Figure 1: Peppers and onions tossed with olive oil and salt before roasting in preheated oven. © 2015 Sangeeta Pradhan

  3. Transfer to a greased baking sheet and place in preheated oven for approximately 20-25 minutes.
  4. Peppers and onions will look slightly shriveled, but should not char completely during the roasting process. ( see figure 2)

    : Roasted peppers and onions.

    Figure 2: Roasted peppers and onions, © 2015 Sangeeta Pradhan

  5. Remove baking sheet from oven and allow to cool on a heat-resistant surface.
  6. Once completely cooled, transfer all except about  1/4 of the roasted vegetables to a blender. Add 1/2 cup fresh parmesan, 2 tbsp fresh basil and just enough water or low sodium broth to blend into a chunky paste ( see figure 3). Set aside.

    Figure 3: Roasted peppers and onions pureed with fresh basil and parmesan cheese

    Figure 3: Roasted peppers and onions pureed with fresh basil and parmesan cheese. © 2015 Sangeeta Pradhan.

  7. In the meantime, heat a medium, thick bottomed sauce pan with the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil.  Sautee chopped garlic until it sizzles and turns a light golden brown, but does not burn.
  8. Add the 2 cups of crushed tomatoes, bring to a boil and allow to simmer on low medium heat, until sauce thickens.  ( Shrinks by about 1/3)
  9. Add the pureed peppers-basil-parmesan mixture to tomato sauce in the pan, until well blended
  10. Allow to heat through and stir in remaining 1/2 tsp of salt. Fold in reserved roasted peppers.
  11. Taste for seasoning.
  12. Serve  hot over pasta and garnished with the remaining 1 tbsp of basil, remaining peppers cut  into  julienne  strips, and 2 tbsp fresh, shredded parmesan cheese.


    Pesto style sauce with a twist. © 2015 Sangeeta Pradhan.

RD tip: This recipes packs quite the antioxidant punch: Cooked tomatoes supply lycopene and peppers supply, amongst others, beta carotene and quercetin, in varying quantities.  Garlic contains a variety of biologically active substances,  such as alliin and allicin which work in concert and are all together  responsible for it’s medicinal properties.

What is interesting about lycopene is that it is a heat stable antioxidant that becomes more bio-available ( more easily absorbed by your body) after you cook it.  This is in sharp contrast  to some of the water-soluble B vitamins that are often depleted after cooking. It is also fat soluble, hence tomatoes cooked in an oil rich medium ( as featured in this recipe), have a higher lycopene content than raw tomatoes. To boost fiber, serve on a bed of high fiber whole wheat pasta ( approximately 5-6 grams per serving)

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor or registered dietitian for recommendations tailored for your unique needs.

About Sangeeta Pradhan RD, CDE

Hi there! Welcome to my blog! If you are confused with all the conflicting messages you get bombarded with every day on carbs, fats, proteins, gluten and anything you can think of related to nutrition, look no further! The purpose of my blog is to cut through all this clutter, utilizing scientific, evidence based guidelines to help you, the consumer, navigate the complex, dietary landscape, and thus empower you to make informed decisions.
This entry was posted in Get cooking, Main dishes and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Pesto with a twist: Roasted red pepper sauce with basil and parmesan

  1. Mary Rowen says:

    Looks amazing. Can’t wait to try this recipe!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So glad you liked what you saw. Please let me know how it turns out. Thank you so much your feedback:)


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s