I've been seduced, I admit. I fall helpless. It's all those luscious pasta recipes out there in blogland. They've been luring me in, and taking me captive, prey to my own noodle cravings. First, it was the Proud Italian Cook's butternut squash lasagna (scroll down for that one), and now it's the brilliantly creative Culinarty's weeknight pasta dish. In twenty minutes, sweet red peppers are simmered with fragrant ginger and garlic, then smothered with tomatoes and a drizzle of cream and feta over whole grain penne. It's an unusual combination of common and available ingredients. I love dinners like this! For one thing, I had everything I needed on hand and only about twenty minutes to get food on the table. For another thing, this dish is healthful, but still feels naughty with that little drizzle of cream and sprinkle of feta. And finally, it's downright scrumptious, familiar and exotic in the same bite. So go ahead and allow yourself to be seduced by this passionate pasta. One bite and you won't regret it.
Money Saving Tips: The whole grain pastas are generally more expensive than their white flour counterparts. My favorite brand is Barilla. When you find the whole grain pastas on sale, stock up for greater nutrition. Still, a simple pasta dinner is still one of the most affordable ways to feed a family. You can easily add in some meat for additional protein also.
Whole Grain Pasta with Sweet Red Pepper, Ginger and Feta
8 ounces box durum wheat penne pasta
4 green onions (greens only)
1 14.5 ounce can Italian style diced tomatoes, blended smooth in blender
1 large red bell pepper
1 small handful of fresh parsley (save some for garnish)
4 Tbsp cream of half and half
2-4 Tbsp Feta – crumbled
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp finely chopped ginger
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt – to taste
Freshly ground pepper mix (red, white, green and black) – to taste
Heat the olive oil in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Remove the top, seeds, and membranes of the pimento pepper and slice into thin strips. Toss them into the saucepan and let them soften on low-medium heat for about 10-15 minutes (if your strips soften quicker, there’s no need for you to wait 10-15 minutes), stirring every now and then.
In the meantime you can peel the ginger with a spoon, then finely chop the peeled ginger.
Begin cooking the pasta according to package directions.
Add the chopped ginger and garlic to the saucepan and give it another stir. Sauté for 2-3 minutes then toss in the crushed tomatoes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper mix and stir again.
Chop up the green parts of 2 green onions and add them to the sauce. Simmer on low heat, partially covered, for 5 minutes. You might need to add 2-3 Tbsp of water during these 5 minutes (to keep a sauce-like consistency), depending on how watery your crushed tomatoes are. I didn’t need to so it all comes down to what brand you’re using.
Chop up the fresh parsley leaves and add them to the sauce. Let the sauce cook, partially covered, for another 2-3 minutes, then remove it from the flame and set aside.
Plate the cooked pasta, add some sauce on top then spoon 1 Tbsp of cream (per plate) on top of that. Crumble ½ Tbsp of Feta on each plate, garnish with fresh parsley and serve.