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Monday, September 5, 2011

A Great Pesto Spread: Pesto Calabrese

Some pesto doesn't look or taste like pesto at all. But this great spread is from Rocco Arena, owner of San Rocco Restaurant in New York, and Rocco swears it is pesto. We found the recipe in Saveur magazine's big article in praise of pesto.

The magazine says this pesto is spicy, but we didn't find it spicy at all. We found it pretty bland, in fact, so our suggestion is to add a little hot red pepper to the mix. But even in its bland state, this spread will be a hit with your guests.

Pesto Calabrese

1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2 -inch cubes
2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced
1/2 small yellow onion, minced
2 plum tomatoes, cored and minced
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/3 cup packed basil
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Place eggplant in a colander, toss with 2 tsp. salt and let sit for 20 minutes.
Drain and dry on paper towels, and set aside.

Heat oil in a 10-inch 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 good processor and add ricotta and basil. Puree until smooth.

Season with salt and pepper.

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