Pesto Calabrese

This southern Italian-style pesto recipe was given to us by Rocco Arena, owner of San Rocco restaurant in New York City. A touch of ricotta adds richness to sautéed red peppers and eggplant, making it an excellent bruschetta topping. This recipe first appeared in SAVEUR Issue #140 along with Laura Schenone’s story Glorious Pesto.

Pesto Calabrese Pesto Calabrese
Eggplant, red pepper, tomato, and ricotta purée into an easy sauce—toss it with pasta for weeknight dinner, or served alongside crudité at an evening soirée.
Yield: makes about 1 1/2 cups


  • 1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 14 cup olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • 12 small yellow onion, minced
  • 2 plum tomatoes, cored and minced
  • 12 cup ricotta cheese
  • 13 cup packed basil
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Place eggplant in a colander and toss with 2 tsp. salt; let sit for 20 minutes. Drain eggplant and dry on paper towels; set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a 10″ skillet over medium-high heat; add pepper and onion, and cook, stirring often, until soft and lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add eggplant, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and add ricotta and basil; puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Correction: August 22, 2011 The printed version of this headnote used the word “spicy” to describe this pesto. Our version is more sweet than spicy. We have corrected the headnote to reflect this.