Red Pepper Pesto Pasta

April 17, 2012

red pepper pesto pasta

Sometimes I just get bored with spaghetti and red sauce. Sure it’s good… but if that’s all you ever eat for pasta, eventually your appetite starts begging for a change. THIS pasta- it gave me that change. And I don’t know if I will ever go back now.

Just kidding!

Our family loves red sauce too much to completely let it go, but now we have a welcome addition to our Italian dinner rotation. I was a bit tentative about it at first because I had never made a pesto before, and one with roasted red peppers... would my Husband’s picky palate even step into the same room as this? Turns out it would. He ate a whole plateful at that. I almost dropped dead in shock that he enjoyed this meal. Now, I did NOT bother mentioning the fact that it was made with peppers and pine nuts. I conveniently left that information out and he was none the wiser. I bet you he thought it was some sort of tomato sauce.

The flavors of this dish were just fantastic. You’d have to be a tough critic if you didn’t think so. With delicious bright flavors from the basil and roasted red pepper it feels almost light. There is also a whole other dimension of luxuriousness to the sauce from the parmesan and heavy cream. AMAZING! And if you are so inclined to make it particularly hearty for say, some men, you can add some shredded chicken. I did and it was a welcome addition. Chicken pairs just perfectly with the sauce. If you want to go in the opposite direction and make this dish a little lighter, opt out of the cream and just use some chicken broth or starchy pasta water. It’s an option.

This recipe may sound like it is pretty complex and takes more effort than the everyday red sauce, but with the help of your food processor it can be on your table in the same amount of time it takes for the pasta to cook. You simply toast the garlic and pine nuts in some olive oil. Process to make a paste. Add the parmesan, basil, and roasted red peppers. All you need to do to finish it off is toss it with the pasta, heavy cream, and chicken. DONE. Easy, right?  It’s just so simple and delicious it makes me want to cry when I think that I’ve been missing out on this for so long.

red pepper pesto pasta

Red Pepper Pesto Pasta
Serves: 6
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ⅓ cup pine nuts
  • ⅓ cup small chunks Parmesan (or grated)
  • 1 cup of jarred roasted red bell peppers, drained
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • shredded chicken, optional
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to the pot.
  2. Meanwhile, saute garlic cloves in a small pan with the ROOM TEMP olive oil, slowly pan roasting the garlic a while to mellow it out (When you heat the garlic with the cold oil, the oil becomes flavored)
  3. Add the pine nuts to the heated oil and let them saute just 1-2 minutes until slightly toasted and fragrant.
  4. Add the garlic, pine nuts, and oil to the food processor and pulse to make a fine paste.
  5. Add the Parmesan cheese and pulse. Add the red pepper, basil leaves, salt, and pepper. Pulse to combine into a paste. Set aside.
  6. Add the pesto to the pasta and stir to combine. Stir in heavy cream, if desired. Heat until warmed through. Stir in chicken, if desired.
  7. Garnish with extra pine nuts, chopped basil, grated Parmesan. Serve immediately.
If you opt out of the heavy cream, use some chicken broth of starchy cooking water in it's place.

Adapted from Menu Musings of a Modern American Mom


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