What Is Pesto Calabrese?

Chilli flakes

Short answer
Pesto alla Calabrese (or just pesto Calabrese for short) originates from Calabria in Italy and is made from charred red peppers, ricotta, sun-dried tomatoes, almonds, and chilli flakes.

Long answer
In exactly the same way that the people of Trapani took the Genovese pesto recipe as inspiration rather than the rule, the inhabitants of Calabria in the southwest region of Italy perfected their own version too.

By utilising the ingredients that grew in abundance around them, a spicy, smoky pesto Calabrese was born thanks to the inclusion of dried chilli flakes and charred red bell peppers, both of which are perfectly suited to the region's climate.

The herds of goats and sheep that grazed in the rugged landscape of Calabria enabled cooks to replace the traditional Parmesan with creamy ricotta, but probably the most striking thing about pesto Calabrese is that it's one of the only Italian pestos to be made without basil.

As with all pestos, this sauce is great with pasta but can also be used as a dip or stuffing. We particularly like it on crostini, bruschetta, and pizza, and it's a great contender for drizzling over fish and meat too.

Authentic Pesto Calabrese Recipe

Ricotta 100g
Almonds 50g
Sun-dried tomatoes 20g
Olive oil 15g
Roasted red peppers x2
Shallot x1
Garlic clove x1
Chilli flakes pinch
Seasoning to taste

Add all the ingredients, apart from the olive oil, to a food processor or blender and blitz until you reach your ideal consistency.

Transfer to a clean mixing bowl and stream in the olive oil, stirring constantly.

Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days.