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Baked Red Pepper Pasta Recipe

Baked Red Pepper Pasta Recipe

Roasted red pepper sauce adapted from here.
Servings 6 servings
Author Brandon Matzek

Ingredients

For the roasted red pepper sauce:

  • 1 jar 16 ounces roasted red peppers, drained
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, plus more to taste
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the white sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Small pinch grated nutmeg
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the baked pasta:

  • 1 pound dried pasta (I used casarecce here, but penne or gemelli would be good too)
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella

2 handfuls chopped basil, plus more for serving

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for grating

Instructions

  1. To make the roasted red pepper sauce, combine red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan and vinegar in a food processor along with 1 teaspoon salt and several grinds of black pepper. Pulse until ingredients are chopped fine. With the food processor running, stream in olive oil to form a smooth sauce. Season to taste with additional salt, pepper and vinegar.
  2. To make the white sauce, warm butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Sprinkle flour over the surface of the butter, and then stir to combine. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture turns light golden and takes on a nutty aroma (1 - 2 minutes). Whisk in the milk gradually, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of heavy cream (8 - 10 minutes). Take the sauce off the heat, and stir in Parmesan, nutmeg, a couple pinches of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Season to taste with more salt and pepper.
  3. Preheat an oven to 350°F.
  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (do this while you are cooking the white sauce). Cook the pasta until just before al dente (2 to 3 minutes shy of the package instructions). The pasta should have some good bite to it, but no crunch. Drain the pasta, but reserve a little of the cooking liquid. Return the pasta to the pot, then fold in the roasted red pepper sauce with a splash of cooking liquid. Continue folding until the pasta is well coated. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed.
  5. Spoon half of the white sauce into the bottom of a 12-inch cast-iron skillet (or 9 x 13 baking dish). Top with 1/2 of the pasta, 1/2 of the mozzarella and 1/2 of the basil. Start the next layer with the remaining white sauce, then remaining pasta. Using a spoon or spatula, gently fold the pasta in a few spots to create some streaks of white sauce throughout (don't mix up the whole thing though). Top with remaining mozzarella, basil and dusting of grated Parmesan.
  6. Bake until the cheese is melted and the sides start to bubble (about 20 minutes). Turn the broiler to high, put the skillet under the flame, then cook until golden spots start to develop on the cheese (3 to 4 minutes). Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy with extra chopped basil, grated Parmesan and black pepper!

Recipe Notes

*This baked pasta can be prepared through Step 5 up to 1 day in advance. Cover and store in the refrigerator. When ready to bake, take the skillet from the fridge and transfer directly to the preheated oven. You'll need to bake for a little longer.