Peppery Pesto Penne Perfection (with Tomatoes)

I truly believe that I could eat some variation of pasta for the rest of my life and be subliminally happy.  The creamier and the cheesier the better, but because I would like to live a healthy and fit life until a very ripe old age, those dishes are out of the question.  On a semi-related tangent here, did you listen to the new clip about the centenarian woman that went hang gliding last week to celebrate her 101st birthday?  She went to Disneyland when she turned 90 to ride all the “adult” rides and decided to hang-glide so she couldn’t be outdone by her 70 year old son who had taken up the hobby.  My favorite part about the story was when she said, “I am not going to sit at home moaning and groaning just because I am old.”  She also landed herself a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.  That’s what I aspire to be like in 70+ years and pasta with buttery, creamy, cheesy sauce certainly isn’t the answer.  Confession: I may sneak a bite or two when someone else orders alfredo, beurre blanc, or a mile-high lasagna.

With that long-winded introduction complete, let me present to you an equally healthy and delicious pasta that will not only please your stomach and–if you’re like me–your triceps.  This dish is even better because it takes absolutely no time at all.  It tastes wonderful enough to fool people that you slaved away in the kitchen for hours and had to go straight to Italy for the pasta (not that I would refuse), but neither are necessary.  Add some crushed red pepper flakes for some zing, add a little more basil, tweak the ration of tomatoes to roasted peppers, pair with chicken, scallops, or meatballs and you can create a magnificent feast to your particular palette.  Garnish with fresh grated parmesan, a little fresh basil, or even fresh cherry tomato halves and you will impress a chef with your presentation.  Fresh rustic artisan bread and a fresh caesar salad are all that’s left to make your meal perfect.

This dish is like the ace of spades–keep it up your sleeve and play it when you need it most.  You will win, don’t worry.

Roasted Pepper and Tomato Pesto Penne:
Inspired from a recipe from my new favorite food blog (that I found through Pinterest…I <3 that place.)

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/3-1/2 cup pine nuts, depending on your preference
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup jarred roasted red or yellow pepper
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste (I used a dash of salt and probably 1/4 teaspoon or more pepper)
  • crushed red pepper to taste if you are using
  • a dash or two or three or four of dried oregano (if you want)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (or less, depending on your preference for the consistency of your pesto….I like mine thicker rather than runny)
  • 1 lb. penne pasta
  • 1/4ish cup milk (completely optional)
  1. Place garlic and pine nuts in a food processor. 
  2.  Pulse until finely chopped. 
  3. Add Parmesan, red pepper, tomatoes, basil leaves, and salt and pepper.  Also add the crushed red pepper and oregano if you are using them.  
  4. Pulse until well combined. 
  5. With the motor running, add the olive oil through the feed tube and process until incorporated. Set aside.
  6. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain and return the pasta to the pot. 
  7. Add the pesto to the pasta and stir to combine. 
  8. Stir in milk (or cream if you don’t want to live to be a 101-year-old hang-glider) if you are looking for a creamier sauce.   
  9. Heat the whole show until warmed through.  
  10. Admire your work of art that really only took about 20 minutes.
  11. Serve immediately.

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