Red Pepper Pesto with Roasted Cauliflower

roasted red pepper pesto with roasted cauliflower

So much to say, so little time to type it up. I’m in a deadline crunch for the next few days, but I have several posts in the works that I can’t wait to share! First up: Mark Bittman’s roasted red pepper pesto for The Food Matters Project. I had no doubt that I’d love it; I have already proclaimed my adoration for pesto on this blog before and red bell peppers just happen to be one of my very favorite vegetables.

I made my red pepper version extra bold and spicy, which is just the way I like it. Today I paired it with roasted cauliflower, which makes a great snack or appetizer, and I see a kale, white bean and red pepper pesto wrap in my future.

pesto spices

Basically, I roughly halved the recipe, and toasted the nuts and garlic (a little toasting always helps, in my opinion, and it’s proven true in my arugula pesto recipe and basil pesto recipe). I used roasted red peppers from a jar. Although I’m sure freshly roasted peppers would taste better, red bell peppers aren’t in season around here, which is a fact that makes me wanna boo-hoo-hoo most of the year. I also grabbed my good incredible bottle of olive oil for this recipe, which Native Roots Market kindly provided for this recipe and more to come, along with the cumin seed. The oil is a Palestinian free trade, cold-pressed, organic Rumi tree olive oil by Canaan Fair Trade. If you can find some, get it!

After tasting the base mixture, I decided to thicken it up a bit and added about 1/2 a cup of Great Northern beans. I’ve gotten into the habit of cooking up big batches of beans and freezing them for later, so it was as simple as defrosting a couple of handfuls of beans and throwing them into the food processor. Lastly, I decided to give it some kick and added 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes… then another half teaspoon, because I like my food extra spicy.

roasted red pepper pesto

Ultimately, here’s what I combined in my food processor: 2 garlic cloves (toasted), 1/2 cup walnuts (toasted), about 4/5ths of a 16 ounce jar of roasted red peppers, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup Great Northern beans, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (1/2 teaspoon may be plenty, so add to taste) and freshly ground sea salt and black pepper. Find the full roasted red pepper pesto recipe at girlichef!

Note: Since my other pestos freeze so nicely, I don’t see why this one wouldn’t do the same. Here’s my trick for freezing pesto in an ice cube tray!

roasted cauliflower

I was intrigued by Melissa Clark’s recipe for roasted cauliflower with cumin seed when I came across it in her latest cookbook, Cook This Now. Cook This Now is filled with wonderfully simple gourmet recipes, and although most entrées are meat-based, almost all of her vegetarian options appealed to me. It took me a long time to learn to like cauliflower and I believe that roasting brings out its best qualities. It has so little on its own that it would play nicely with a host of spices. Do I believe that cumin is the end-all, be-all accompaniment? No, I don’t, but it is delicious.

Melissa Clark's roasted cauliflower with whole cumin seed recipe

Melissa suggests serving the roasted cauliflower with a blend of salted plain yogurt, fresh chopped mint leaves and pomegranate arils, but I decided to serve it with this red pepper pesto. Thanks to the red pepper flakes in my pesto, cumin-roasted cauliflower dunked into roasted red pepper pesto tastes almost harissa-like. It’s a great pairing if you like bold, spicy food.

Red Pepper Pesto with Roasted Cauliflower
5.0 from 1 reviews
Recipe type: Snack, Side
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
Roasted cauliflower with whole cumin seed
  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into roughly bite-sized florets
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • sea salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
Red pepper and walnut pesto
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 8 roasted red bell peppers
  • 1 cup fresh basil (optional)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. To roast the cauliflower: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss cauliflower florets with olive oil and spices.
  2. Spread the mixture evenly in a single layer on a large baking sheet.
  3. Roast, flipping halfway, for about 25 to 30 minutes, until the edges of the cauliflower are toasty and starting to caramelize.
  4. To make the pesto: In a food processor, pulse the garlic until finely chopped. Add the walnuts to the food processor and pulse a few more times to break up any large pieces.
  5. Add the roasted red peppers and basil (if using) and process, streaming in the oil as you go, until all the ingredients are well combined and as coarse or as smooth as you want them. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Store in a covered, airtight container in the fridge for a couple of days, or freeze.
Adapted from Cook This Now by Melissa Clark.

Find variations on the red pepper pesto at Girlichef!


  1. says

    I KNOW I’d like this combo because roasting cauliflower is my absolute favorite way to make it…and I can almost taste it through your photos. Beautiful- so happy you had the time to make it. (…and p.s… girlichef…with an i ;) . You’re determined to give me an a…)

  2. says

    What a great idea with the roasted cauliflower! Looks delicious. This pesto is so adaptable, there’s no end to the variations apparently– and how great is that?

  3. shelley says

    Every one of your posts makes my mouth water… this one looks absolutely amazing! But what’s more amazing is I have red peppers and cauliflower, fresh from the farmers market, in my fridge right now!!! WOO! So excited to give this a try.

    • says

      Brilliant?! I’m blushing! I’m trying to save the roasted cauliflower and pesto for dinner but that plate is calling my name from the kitchen. By the way, I think Cook This Now would be right up your alley!

  4. says

    I seriously thought there was nothing better than roasted garlic but pairing it with the pesto is amazing x2! Now I want some roasted cauliflower!

  5. says

    Oh my god. I’d be surprised if you couldn’t hear my stomach through the computer. I fell in love with roasted vegetables a few years ago, and just the thought of spicy cauliflower with red bell pepper pesto makes me weak at the knees. Thank you so much for sharing this with the world!

  6. says

    Yummy!!! I looooove roasted cauliflower and cumin seeds. I’m going to add some red pepper flakes to my leftover pesto and then eat it with roasted cauliflower and kale just like you did. I love all of the inspiration I get from other FMP members :)

  7. says

    Oooh, I just so happen to LOVE bold, spicy food! This looks amazing, Kate – such a great combination of spices and the texture looks perfect – not too thick, not too thin. Can’t wait to try it!

  8. says

    Looks delicious and I don’t even like cauliflower… your photos are awesome!

    I love freezing pesto in ice cube trays… perfect for those “I hate cooking” moments.

  9. says

    up until now i wasnt a big cauliflower fan, but i just made a curried cauliflower soup and it is sooo delicious. i have roasted just about ANY veggies except cauliflower, i guess its time to finally do it for the first time!

  10. says

    I’ve been very curious about Melissa Clark’s cookbook. I’m so glad to hear your thoughts on it. What a beautiful dish and gorgeous photography.

  11. says

    I have never tried roasting cauliflower. In India we eat a lot of cauliflower but all mostly stride fried with different spices and herbs or curried. Roasting sounds wonderful though…

  12. says

    I adore all roasted veggies but ESPECIALLY roasted cauliflower! And I love the idea of dunking them in the dip! I have extra dip leftover so I am going to (a) spice-ify it and (b) roast up some cauli for dunking. Great ideas!

  13. says

    Kate, there is just so much I love about this recipe (and your blog in general for that matter.)
    I’m totally into cooking up batches of beans myself. And I’m not sure I ever would have added them to the pepper pesto, but reading your recipe – they seem made for each other. The creaminess of the beans must have made for great texture. And cauliflower and cumin – yes please.

  14. Ariana says

    Made this last night and it was delicious! Omitted the oil and it was perfect. What a healthy veggie option! Thanks for sharing.

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