PEPE ROSSI… Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Couscous!

by valentinalucia

I have discovered a new way to do pesto. Forget your usual basil-pesto-on-pasta-blah-blah-blah dinners (even though they are just as delectable), and try this – couscous with pesto. I’m sure I’m not the first one to try this, but I feel as though the heavens have opened up after a long cloudy stretch and revealed to me the brightest, culinary light of our days. I’ve made tonight for dinner Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Couscous!

The pesto itself is enough to make anyone go crazy. It’s got a great base in roasted red pepper flavor, but the garlic is wonderful because it really adds a kick to the pesto. This pesto came out smoother and creamier than your usual basil or parsley pestos, mainly because the texture of roasted red peppers is smooth to begin with. It’s much smoother than the sun-dried tomato pesto I made previously for the same reason – roasted red peppers have a much different texture than sun dried-tomatoes.

Just a note about pesto in general; most pesto recipes call for some kind of nut. Walnuts and pine nuts (“pignoli” in Italian) are the most common, but whatever you do – ALWAYS toast the nuts before you make your pesto. I’m telling you, a few minutes in a hot skillet or in the oven make a huge difference when it comes to the overall body of flavor for your pesto. Take the time. Toast your nuts. Save a life. Or at the very least… save a tongue!

I made broccoli as a side dish for this meal, but the couscous is definitely the star. What’s great about this couscous dish is that you can make a bunch of couscous – more than you’re going to eat at the current meal – and store the leftovers in the refrigerator for about a week. It tastes just as good warmed up and on the side of grilled chicken as it does cold with a few added black olives as a zesty summer salad. Couscous and pesto – lovely, tasty and versatile!

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Couscous (serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

1 1/3 cup dry couscous

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 full roasted red peppers (from a jar, stored in citrus water or oil) – about 1 cup chopped

2 tablespoons red pepper flakes*

salt

pepper

*Note: You can add red pepper flakes to fit your specific taste – I like things hot and spicy all the time, so I probably will use more when making this recipe. Use your own judgment to fit your taste-buds perfectly.

Preparations:

1. Prepare couscous as directed on package and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, pulse pine nuts and garlic in a food processor until broken down.

3. Add olive oil, roasted red peppers, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and pulse until smooth. Pulse less if you prefer your pesto chunkier.

4. Mix pesto into couscous until all of the couscous is covered with pesto. Be sure to do this while the couscous is still warm, so it can absorb the pesto and really take on its flavor and color. Serve immediately. Store any left overs in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

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