Penne with Roasted Red Pepper Cream Sauce
Well, it has been a while! This recipe is loosely based on one I found over The Pioneer Woman. If you want some super in-depth instructions for the recipe (especially for roasting the peppers, which was a new thing for me), I’d recommend checking it out.
This is fresh, light, surprisingly simple, and pretty delicious. A nice “oops it’s 8:00 and we should eat something but not too much because some of us go to bed at a reasonable hour” sort of meal.
- 3 large red bell peppers
- 1 small white onion, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup half-and-half [original called for heavy cream, but we didn’t have any. If you want something richer, then go for the cream]
- 1-ish lb. penne
- 2 cups fresh baby spinach
- 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
- 2 Tbsp. parsley
- 1 tsp. tarragon
- Salt (to taste)
- 3 Tbsp. butter, divided
- Parmesan cheese
- Roast the peppers! Also, now is a good time to put the pasta water on to boil.
- You can do this on a grill or in the broiler, but I actually used our gas range- perch the peppers on top of the grate over the flames (no pan!), and leave them for a few minutes on medium heat. You may hear some hissing and popping, or see some glowing bits of char. This is perfectly normal. Fear not.
- When the underside of the pepper is well-blackened, turn it over with a pair of tongs.
- Once the peppers are blackened all the way around (or most of the way), put them in some kind of airtight container- you can use a glass freezer container or a ziplock bag (make sure you let the peppers cool first, though), or you can do what I did, and just set them on a plate and cover them with an upturned bowl.
- Leave them for 5-10 minutes so that they can sweat out some of their liquid. This will also loosen the char, making step 5 easier.
- Using your fingers or a dry paper towel, peel off the blackened papery coating of the peppers. If there are some little pieces you can’t quite get off, that’s okay!
- Remove the stems, veins, and seeds of each pepper- the veins should be very soft by this point, so just give them a light scrape with your knife, and they should come right out.
- Put your roasted peppers in a blender or food processor, along with a few twists of sea salt. Pulse until mostly smooth- it won’t really become a puree, but there shouldn’t be any large pieces. Set aside.
- Hopefully, the water for your pasta has boiled by now, so cook your pasta according to package instructions.
- Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once it’s nice and hot, add the onions and cook until nearly golden.
- Add garlic and sauté until fragrant.
- Next, add the pepper mixture, tomato paste, another few twists of sea salt, and the spices (paprika, cayenne, parsley, tarragon). Stir well to combine.
- Reduce heat to low and stir in the half-and-half and remaining Tbsp. butter. Salt and season to taste (we added plenty of salt, some garlic powder, and more paprika).
- Just before serving, reduce heat to as-low-as-it-goes and fold in spinach. As the spinach darkens in color, turn off the heat entirely- you’re aiming for just barely wilted, not stewed or slimy (If you’re working with an electric stove, which retains heat longer than a gas range, then cut off the heat a minute or two before adding the spinach).
- Serve over pasta with parmesan and some fresh spinach on top!
Notes: Roasting the peppers was actually pretty fun! I’d do it again for sure. This makes about 5 modest servings, with no leftovers, so honestly I think next time I’ll double it. The lightness of the dish definitely comes from the butter + half-and-half (actually, the fat-free half-and-half) that I substituted for the heavy cream. I’m sure if you used the heavy cream, if would be, well… heavier. More indulgent, for sure. This would also be lovely with some chicken or possibly sausage, if you’re looking for more protein. Or possibly mushrooms, if you’re into mushrooms. I mean realistically you could add any number of vegetables to this and it would probably be fine. It’s pretty delicious.