Baked Creamy Red Pepper Penne Pasta Recipe

Baked pasta dishes are the cream of the crop when it comes to comfort food meals. The baking process allows the flavors to intensify, creating a more complex and harmonious profile and allows the cheesy goodness to get into every nook and cranny of the pasta. We're elevating the sauce with roasted red peppers to add a hint of smokiness and lots of extra flavor, and topping this dish with butter toasted breadcrumbs to add a subtle crunch.

Wellness coach and recipe developer Miriam Hahn brings us this recipe and says, "Baked pasta dishes are nice for several reasons, but my favorite is that you can prepare this ahead of time and bake it right before serving." This dish is great for entertaining, easily feeding a crowd with ease, though it's just as good for a family dinner when you have more time earlier in the day to get everything together.

Gather the ingredients for baked creamy red pepper penne pasta

To make this recipe, grab some red bell peppers from the produce aisle, then head to dairy aisle and get cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, and butter. "We are going to roast the peppers to blend with the sauce, but if you want to save a step, you can buy a jar of roasted red peppers," Hahn explains.

Then head to the dry goods area and pick up some marinara sauce, penne pasta, and panko breadcrumbs. Check your pantry for avocado oil, Italian seasoning, garlic granules, and salt.

Step 1: Preheat the oven

Preheat oven to broil.

Step 2: Prepare the red peppers

Brush the whole red peppers with avocado oil and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt.

Step 3: Cook the peppers

Broil in the oven for 30 minutes using the top rack, rotating until each side has blackened.

Step 4: Boil a pot of water

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Step 5: Cook the pasta

Cook the pasta until al dente, then drain and set aside.

Step 6: Peel the peppers

Remove the red peppers from the oven, cool for 10 minutes, then peel and discard skin, core, and seeds.

Step 7: Reset the oven temperature

Reset the oven to 350 F.

Step 8: Blend the sauce

Add the sauce and the roasted red peppers to a blender and blend until smooth.

Step 9: Add the sauce to a pot

Add this mixture and the Italian seasoning to a large pot over medium heat.

Step 10: Add more ingredients

Add the cream cheese and Parmesan and stir well. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 11: Stir in the pasta

Add the pasta to the pot with the sauce and mix well.

Step 12: Add the mixture to a baking dish

Add the pasta mixture to a 9x13-inch baking dish and top with mozzarella cheese.

Step 13: Cover and bake

Cover and bake for 20 minutes.

Step 14: Melt the butter in a pan

Meanwhile melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat.

Step 15: Add the panko

Add the panko to the pan and add the remaining salt, garlic granules, and pepper.

Step 16: Stir and cook the breadcrumbs

Stir for about 5 minutes until the breadcrumbs become toasted and fragrant.

Step 17: Add the breadcrumbs to baked penne

Remove the pasta from the oven and top with the toasted breadcrumbs.

Step 18: Garnish and serve

Serve, optionally garnished with fresh basil.

How can I customize this baked pasta recipe?

If you want your pasta to have a few more vegetables you can incorporate mushrooms, spinach, or sun-dried tomatoes. "Before you add the sauce to the pot in step nine is a good time to saute up any additional vegetables you want to include," Hahn says. "Just add a little oil to the pot, and cook the vegetables until they are tender, then add the sauce and Italian seasoning."

Experiment with cheese varieties such as cheddar, fontina, or smoked Gouda to enrich the cheesy goodness. "You can swap out the cream cheese for ricotta cheese if you prefer for a similar effect," Hahn says.

If you want to make this recipe vegan, you can easily do that by swapping out the cream cheese, Parmesan, mozzarella, and butter for dairy-free versions. For a gluten-free recipe, use gluten-free breadcrumbs and pasta, both of which are readily available at most grocery stores.

What pairs well with this creamy pasta?

Bread of some type is always a classic choice with pasta. You can try sliced baguette, garlic bread, or breadsticks to provide a satisfying accompaniment to the pasta. Serve classic tomato bruschetta on toasted bread as a flavorful appetizer. Another appetizer idea is an antipasto platter with an assortment of olives, cured meats, cheeses, and marinated vegetables for a variety of textures and flavors.

Balance the richness of the pasta with a big green salad dressed with a tangy lemon vinaigrette. Or go for a zesty Caesar salad or a chopped asparagus salad. Roasted vegetables, such as asparagus, broccoli, or brussels sprouts, offer a savory and slightly caramelized flavor, adding depth to the meal.

For dessert, serve a light and refreshing fruit salad, featuring a mix of seasonal fruits, providing a sweet contrast to the savory pasta. Or in keeping with the Italian theme, serve some spumoni ice cream which typically consists of three layers, chocolate, pistachio, and cherry.

Baked Creamy Red Pepper Penne Pasta Recipe
5 from 34 ratings
This baked red pepper penne pasta recipe perfectly balances creamy, cheesy flavors with bell pepper-infused marinara sauce for the ultimate comfort meal.
Prep Time
15
minutes
Cook Time
1
hour
Servings
8
Servings
baking dish and plated pasta
Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Ingredients
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 32 ounces marinara sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ teaspoon garlic granules
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to broil.
  2. Brush the whole red peppers with avocado oil and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt.
  3. Broil in the oven for 30 minutes using the top rack, rotating until each side has blackened.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  5. Cook the pasta until al dente, then drain and set aside.
  6. Remove the red peppers from the oven, cool for 10 minutes, then peel and discard skin, core, and seeds.
  7. Reset the oven to 350 F.
  8. Add the sauce and the roasted red peppers to a blender and blend until smooth.
  9. Add this mixture and the Italian seasoning to a large pot over medium heat.
  10. Add the cream cheese and Parmesan and stir well. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  11. Add the pasta to the pot with the sauce and mix well.
  12. Add the pasta mixture to a 9x13-inch baking dish and top with mozzarella cheese.
  13. Cover and bake for 20 minutes.
  14. Meanwhile melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat.
  15. Add the panko to the pan and add the remaining salt, garlic granules, and pepper.
  16. Stir for about 5 minutes until the breadcrumbs become toasted and fragrant.
  17. Remove the pasta from the oven and top with the toasted breadcrumbs.
  18. Serve, optionally garnished with fresh basil.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 524
Total Fat 23.7 g
Saturated Fat 12.1 g
Trans Fat 0.3 g
Cholesterol 59.3 mg
Total Carbohydrates 59.1 g
Dietary Fiber 4.8 g
Total Sugars 9.8 g
Sodium 822.8 mg
Protein 18.4 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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