Pasta with Red Pepper Sauce and Spinach

Soooooooo, I got confused the last time I posted. The last time I posted I said we’d be out-of-town this week. I must’ve been really looking forward to getting away because it’s next week that we’re going. Sigh. Oh well. That just gives me more time to think of what foods to take with us.

I’ve already decided that we’ll be taking my oats, cinnamon, the little ones vegan yogurt, vegan cheese, apples and bananas (as a snack), the little ones dairy-free animal crackers and snacks, the salt and pepper shaker, dishwasher tabs, and some olive oil. Why dishwasher tabs? The place we’re staying at is basically an apartment, and I think they provide you with one tab. I don’t want to go out and buy more tabs when we’ve got a boat load here at the house.

So, on to last night’s supper. We had Penne with Red Pepper Sauce and Spinach from Chef Michael Smith. I remembered that the Hubs loves this dish, so I added it to my menu when I was flipping through my cookbook.

The hero of the recipe is the red bell pepper. However, I’m not a huge fan of them. Don’t ask me why, I have no idea. Something about the taste just doesn’t scream at me. That’s not to say I won’t eat them though. I’ll cook and eat them all the time. Red bell peppers are green bell peppers that are ripened. It’s harder for your body to digest green ones because they’re not fully ripe. If you’ve ever noticed that green peppers are cheaper than red or yellow ones, that’s why. Have you ever gone to the grocery store and saw a green pepper with a patch that’s starting to turn red or a red pepper with a few green patches? It’s because the green pepper is starting to ripen and the red pepper hasn’t fully ripened just yet. Red peppers have a sweet taste and are loaded with nutrients. They’re packed with vitamin C, B6, and A among other nutrients.


According to my Flavor Thesaurus, she says:

Green peppers are immature red peppers. Green and red differ substantially in flavor but for the purposes of concision share one chapter here. Yellow and orange have more in common with the flavor or red than with green. As you might imagine from an unripe fruit, green peppers are more bitter and have a fresher, grassier flavor than the heat-ripened red, which is sweeter and fruitier. They can sometimes, but not always, be substituted for one another, although you wouldn’t stuff a bitter olive with green pepper, and red peppers don’t have quite the freshening quality that makes green so good in a stir-fry.

So, for the recipe he says to start out with four red bell peppers. I only used two. You chop your peppers, onions, and garlic and toss them into a bowl. He says to use a whole head of garlic, but I can’t take that much so I think I only used five cloves. Then you poor in 1/4 cup of olive oil along with 2tbsp of fennel seeds.


Fennel seeds have a slight licorice/anise flavor and I’ve run across it a lot in Italian dishes. Fennel is discussed under the Anise chapter in the Flavor Thesaurus:

Anise seeds and fennel seeds share a primary flavor compound, anethol. They can be adequately substituted for one another, but what difference obtains between them is most noticeable when you nibble them straight from the jar–where anise seeds are sweet enough to please a licorice eater, fennel seeds are less sweet and greener, somehow more rustic.

You toss the fennel seeds in and make sure everything is coated. Then you put them in a pan, baking sheet, whatever you please, and roast them at 350 for 1 hour.


Doesn’t all of that look pretty? I posted on my Instagram account yesterday that too bad there isn’t a Smellagram because the smell coming from the oven was SO delicious!

When it’s done, he suggests using an immersion blender or food processor to get all of this to turn into a sauce. Personally, I couldn’t see how an immersion blender would work even though the vegetables were soft from roasting. So I just threw everything together in the food processor and did it that way.


This is the point where I got worried that there wouldn’t be enough sauce because I only used two peppers. Thankfully we had just enough. Next time I’ll follow the recipe and use four because it does say it serves 4-6 people.

When you have your desired consistency, taste for salt and pepper. Then get to work on your pasta. While my pasta was cooking, I rinsed some spinach and then put my sauce in a little pot to reheat.

The recipe says “Toss the hot pasta with the reheated red pepper sauce and the baby spinach and serve immediately.” I didn’t do that. When my pasta was done, I dished it out, put some sauce on top, and then added the spinach and stirred everything together. It took a while for the spinach to wilt in the plate. So, if you’re trying this recipe, maybe toss the spinach in with the sauce when you’re reheating it. The spinach should wilt better and faster that way.

The recipe was easy to make and it was good. The little one ate all of his and the Hubs went back for seconds. There was nothing left for lunch today. *sad face* That’s not a problem though. I’m glad everyone liked supper last night. I wouldn’t suggest this as a dish to make if you’re in a hurry or have lots going on that night. The process is simple but the vegetables do take an hour to roast. Other than that, and maybe adding the spinach in with the sauce to reheat, this dish is really good. You should try it!


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