Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

While I created this dish for the renal diet, I find myself making it for family and friends over and over again because it is delicious and very affordable at $4.99 per person.

 If you’ve been reading my blog, you have probably figured out by now, I started my recipe designing career with a company call Renal Support Network.  It’s a non-profit for patients with kidney disease. The diet that people on dialysis have to adhere to is the most counter-intuitive diet I have encountered. Many of the things we consider good for us have to be removed from their diet and, yet, they still need to eat healthily.

Most fruits and many vegetables are either too high in phosphorous or potassium, both of which are great for most of us, but bad for those who don’t have functioning kidneys and need to get their blood cleaned through a machine regularly. Whole grains are hard for people on dialysis to process as well. Since they have no kidney to process fluids and therefore produce urine (I deserve an award for appropriately finding a way to include urine in a food blog) they can have little to no liquids, which includes watery produce like cucumbers or melons. Lastly, their diet needs to be very low in sodium, but that at least is considered a health food norm.

It’s not that it’s an impossible diet, by any means, just an ignored one.  Celebrity chefs are constantly creating recipes for people with diabetes, high blood pressure, or even wheat and gluten allergies, but I see very few good renal (that’s the doctor-iffic way to say kidney) friendly recipes out there. I have seen no innovative ones at all.

So, I have tried to create as many great innovative recipes for this ignored group as I can. You have already seen my Imperial Indian Chicken and Chicken Picatta recipes which I made for the newsletter. Now I would like to share another.

My assignment for the last newsletter was pasta.  Which is great, because pasta is a staple of the busy American’s life, and there is no one busier than a working professional who spends around 10 hours every week on dialysis.  Pasta is cheap, quick, and easy…and normally topped with tomato sauce, usually from a jar.

…And that’s the challenge. Most sauces for pasta are very renal UNfriendly (I think that is an entirely new term. If it takes, off, I wrote it here first!) Tomatoes are high in potassium, and the other options aren’t any better. Alfredo sauces are high in phosphorous and packed with sodium, and jarred pesto is made with pine nuts, which are high in both phosphorous and potassium.

When I found out the kidney patient community couldn’t eat tomato sauce I decided that that was just unacceptable. What is life without pasta slathered in a red sauce? So, my goal became to rectify the situation and create a renal friendly substitute red sauce.

My solution: roasted red peppers. With a few simple steps, jarred red peppers that can be found at most grocery stores (and very affordably at Trader Joe’s) can be turned into a red sauce. You can make it in large batches and store it in your refrigerator or freezer.

And you know what? I discovered a whole new red sauce that I love to eat now. It is every bit as tasty as tomato sauce, so I want you to try it, kidney patient or not!

Simply serve the following sauce over your favorite pasta. My recommendation is a ravioli, particularly the Trader Joe’s Lobster ravioli, but any pasta will do. Below is a version anyone can enjoy, but a very slightly altered version of this recipe that is more renal friendly can be seen here.

 Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

2 garlic cloves, cut in half (to make them easier to blend)

1 jar (about 7 to 8 ounces) roasted red bell peppers, drained

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup fresh basil, torn

2 Tbsp (or 1/8 cup) of almonds (pine nuts or walnuts can also be used, if affordable)

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend 30 seconds until it has reached your desired consistency. Taste, and adjust flavors to your preference.
  2. Serve the sauce over hot ravioli or your other favorite pasta.

This recipe can also be made with freshly roasted bell peppers. Instructions on how to make your own roasted red peppers can be found here. (I prefer the paper bag and grill method.)

Accounting: Lobster Ravioli $2.49 + Roasted Red Peppers $2.49 + basil $1.99 + almonds (1/2 package @ $1.99) $1.00 + parmesan $.99 + 1/2 bottle Charles Shaw Shiraz (@ $1.99) $1.00= $9.97

÷ 2 people

Comes to $4.99 per person!

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