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A thick, creamy-textured Mediterranean roasted red pepper pasta recipe made in minutes with roasted red bell peppers, garlic, tomatoes and thickened with almonds instead of cream. Toss with wide pappardelle noodles or your favorite pasta!
If you’ve been visiting me on the regular, you know my love for pappardelle pasta is real and true.
I’ve always loved creamy roasted red pepper pasta sauce on everything, from crispy roasted potatoes to scrambled eggs. But this complex-tasting (and a snap to make) roasted red pepper sauce has moved to the top of our favorites list.
This savory pasta recipe is a dish I created especially with pappardelle in mind. The thick sauce coats the noodles in just the right way, without using any butter or heavy cream. Like blending pesto in a food processor, it’s over-the-top delicious. It has a creamy texture that comes from a blend of whole almonds, tomatoes and fresh red chili (or red pepper flakes) for a touch of spice.
About the ingredients
- Red bell peppers: Roasting fresh red bell peppers is a key step to creating that layer of smoky goodness. The smoky, almost sexy flavor of the red bells isn’t exactly spicy, but deeply savory. I’ve also tested this sauce using jarred roasted peppers from the grocery store and it’s just as delicious.
- Almonds: I use whole, raw almonds to thicken the sauce (like a romesco). The best way to puree the almonds and create a smooth sauce is to use a food processor or blender.
- Red chili: To zip up the sauce, I threw in a whole red chili — the spice of life! The type of fresh chilis I tend to keep on hand for cooking are Fresno chilis, which are often milder in heat than jalapeños. That means the sauce isn’t searing hot, but has enough of a pleasant undercurrent of warmth to make things interesting. You can substitute with crushed red pepper or cayenne (see note in the recipe.)
- Pasta: I used pappardelle, a type of long pasta shaped into wide noodles, which is particularly good paired with thick, hearty sauces and ragus. Pappardelle has the advantage of being a long pasta you can coil around your fork like spaghetti. But instead of skinny strands, you get big, beautiful wide ribbons of pasta. They are the perfect vehicle for carrying sauce and pasta straight into your mouth. You can use fettuccine or short chunky pastas like rigatoni or penne, if you prefer.
- Cheese: I used sharp pecorino Romano cheese, a sheep’s milk cheese from Southern Italy. Fresh Parmesan cheese can be substituted. For a dairy-free vegan option, try the same amount of nutritional yeast or plant-based grated cheese.
- If you want to make your own roasted red peppers, start by adjusting your oven racks so that they’re about 6-inches from your broiler element and turn on the broiler.
- Remove the peppers to a bowl and cover with a lid or a plate until they’re cool. Covering them creates steam which makes them easier to peel.
- Peel off the blackened skin, pull off the stem, remove the seeds and discard all of it.
- Use your roasted peppers right away, or place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Pasta shopping tips
If you want to up your pasta game, learn to gravitate toward authentic, bronze-cut pasta when you’re grocery shopping.
Here’s a tip: If you see the words “Gragnano, Italy” on a package of dried pasta, you’re already on the perfect path. Gragnano is a town in Campania located on a plateau near the Bay of Naples, an area that has been a center of pasta production for centuries.
Mediterranean Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
- 1 pound (450 g) pappardelle pasta or fettuccine
- Kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup (40 g) whole raw almonds
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 fresh red chili pepper, such as Fresno, chopped (substitute 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne or crushed pepper to taste)
- 2 roasted red peppers, peeled and seeded *(or use 2 drained jarred peppers)
- 1 cup (245 g) chopped fresh tomato, or canned tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Reserved pasta cooking water, about ¼ cup
- 2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
- ¼ cup fresh basil or Italian parsley leaves
- Bring a large pot of water (4-6 quarts) to a boil and add 3 tablespoons salt. Cook the pasta according to package directions, about 8 minutes for perfect al dente texture (test and taste to be sure). Scoop out and reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.
Make the sauce
- While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in an 6-8-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the almonds and garlic. Cook, shaking the pan once or twice, until the almonds start to toast and the garlic is fragrant, 3-5 minutes. Stir in the chili, roasted red peppers, tomato and salt and cook 2 more minutes.
- Transfer the almond mixture to a food processor or blender (an immersion blender won't make quite as smooth a sauce). Add the cheese and 2 tablespoons of the pasta water. Process until a smooth sauce forms. Add more water, drop by drop, if needed to get a thick, saucy consistency.
- Put the pasta in a large serving bowl and pour the sauce over. Gently toss until the strands are coated in the sauce. Sprinkle with additional Pecorino cheese and the herbs and serve. Buon appetito!
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- Use a food processor or blender to make the smoothest, creamy sauce.
- Add a tablespoon of lemon juice, balsamic or sherry vinegar to the finished sauce to balance and brighten the flavors.
- The sauce will keep refrigerated up to a week. Heat gently in a saucepan, adding hot pasta water to loosen if necessary. Toss with cooked pasta just before serving.