Penne Pasta, Bell Peppers, and Asparagus in a Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce, with basil and crushed red pepper. This Italian-style pasta dinner is easy to make, full of flavor and just pure comfort food. It’s so easy to make – perfect for busy week nights!
What I personally love about this dish is that it’s a great way to use asparagus differently than just as a good old side dish. In this recipe, asparagus and bell peppers are seared in the skillet and then mixed in with the creamy sauce, spices, and pasta. The vegetables taste so good with all the spices, pasta, and the flavorful creamy sauce in this dish! It’s really a winner!
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The recipe is easily adaptable to be gluten free – just use gluten free brown rice penne instead of regular wheat pasta.
Pasta, Bell Peppers, and Asparagus in a Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
Total Time: 1 hour
Yield: 4 servings
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small jar (3-4 oz) sun-dried tomatoes in oil, or use 3-4 oz fat-free sun dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons oil from the sun-dried tomatoes jar (or vegetable oil)
7-10 sprigs of asparagus
1 red bell pepper, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, cleaned and thinly sliced
8 oz penne pasta (for gluten free, use Tinkyada gluten free brown rice pasta)
1 cup half and half
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon basil (if using dry basil), if using fresh basil you can add more
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (at least, add more to taste)
1/2 cup reserved cooked pasta water (or more)
salt, to taste
Note: if using sun-dried tomatoes in oil (in a jar), make sure to drain sun-dried tomatoes from oil, before using them. Reserve 2 tablespoons of this drained oil for sauteing as described below:
In a large pan, on high heat, sautee garlic and sun-dried tomatoes (drained from oil) in 2 tablespoons of oil (reserved from the sun-dried tomatoes jar - see note above) for 1 minute until garlic is fragrant. Add the rest of vegetables (asparagus, each sprig cut into 3 slices, and thinly sliced bell peppers), sprinkle with a small amount of salt, and cook on medium heat for 2-3 minutes until they soften just a little (you still want them to have a bit of crunch).
Bring a large pan with water to boil and cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserve some cooked pasta water. Drain and rinse the pasta with cold water (to stop cooking).
Add half and half to the skillet with vegetables and bring to a gentle boil. Then, add grated Parmesan cheese, mix it with half and half as it is boiling for only 30 seconds until it melts, then reduce heat immediately. Simmer and cook, constantly stirring, until all cheese melts and creamy sauce forms. If the sauce is too thick - don't worry - you'll be adding some cooked pasta water soon. Add 1 tablespoon of basil, and at least 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Stir to combine.
Add cooked pasta to the skillet with the creamy sauce, and stir to combine.
Add about 1/2 cup reserved cooked pasta water because the creamy sauce will be too thick (do not add all water at once - you might need less or more of it). This will water down the thickness of the cheese sauce and make it creamier. Immediately, season the pasta with salt and more red pepper flakes, to taste, if needed. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes for flavors to combine.
Note: Make sure to salt the dish just enough to bring out of the flavors of basil and sun-dried tomatoes.