Sweet Pepper Pasta Skillet

A simple vegetable pasta in a light cream sauce, almost three pounds of barely cooked vegetables (three!!! colors of bell pepper plus corn and peas) topped with juicy tomato and for anyone in the mood, something creamy. A month ago, if you'd told me I'd be raving about a dinner made from three giant bell peppers from Sam's Club or Costco, I'd have been intrigued ... but dubious. Now here I am, raving about a skillet full of pasta and colorful veggies that's way more than the sum of its parts. And oh yeah, I've been experimenting with a new way to cook pasta and it works so well, it's my new method for cooking dried pasta.

Sweet Pepper Pasta Skillet, another Quick Supper ♥ KitchenParade.com, three colors of bell pepper plus corn, peas and fresh basil. Easy Weeknight Dinner. Budget Friendly.

Real Food, Fresh & Fast. Year-Round Kitchen Staple. Budget Friendly. Easy Weeknight Dinner. Weight Watchers Friendly. Vegetarian.

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How Do YOU Cook Dried Pasta?

Who needs a "recipe", right? Well, I'm here to say, I cooked pasta the same ol' way for years and years but earlier this month, switched to a brand-new way. That business about old dogs and new tricks? Nonsense.

THE OLD WAY, THE WAITIN' WAY Wait for a big pot of water to come to a boil. It seems to take for-evah, right? Add some salt, stir in the pasta then wait-wait for the water to boil again. Set the timer, then wait-wait-wait for the pasta to cook until done.

THE NEW WAY, THE IT JUST WORKS WAY Put the water, the salt and the pasta in the pot all together straight off, while the water's fresh and cold out of the tap. Turn on the heat and bring the pot to a boil, stirring every so often to make sure the pasta isn't sticking to the bottom of the pot. When the water boils, turn off the heat! (Yes, you read that right. Turn it off!) Cover the pot and set the timer for the number of minutes specified on the pasta package, leaving the heat off but the lid on the entire time. Test for doneness. If it's done, great, drain as usual. If it's not done, give the pasta a another minute or two.

Do you already cook pasta this way? (What? And you didn't spill the noodles beans?!) If not, would you be willing to give it a chance?

Here's what I like about the new way.

  • Start to finish, the pasta seems to cook faster.
  • Overall, the pasta seems to need less tending, stove and water temperature, timing etc.
  • No more boiling over the pasta pot!
  • All this, with no difference in the taste or texture of the pasta.

Here's one difference. I do find it important to ensure that the salt dissolves, otherwise it just ends up on the bottom of the pot. Luckily the fix is easy: when stirring the pasta so it doesn't stick, stir low in the pot and give it all an extra swirl or two to distribute the salt as well.

Sweet Pepper Pasta Skillet, another Quick Supper ♥ KitchenParade.com, three colors of bell pepper plus corn, peas and fresh basil. Easy Weeknight Dinner. Budget Friendly.

How to Make Sweet Pepper Pasta Skillet.

The detailed recipe is written in traditional recipe form below but here are the highlights. You can do this!

Cook the Pasta Use whatever method you prefer.

Cook the Onion and Peppers I'm a chop 'n' add-as-you-go cook but for this recipe, recommend finishing chopping the onion and bell pepper first so they can both cook at once. The beauty of this dish is that the peppers are barely cooked, they're done but still have firm texture (not quite crunch but almost) and bright color.

Make the Cream Sauce Right in the same skillet! And not cream, exactly, but half & half which of course is half cream and half whole milk plus a spoonful of mustard for a touch of acidity. Half & half creates a light cream sauce, not heavy at all after it cooks down a touch.

Add More Vegetables & the Hot Pasta Now's when it all comes together and dinner's just minutes away. I use frozen peas for convenience and color, corn for sweetness and color. These take just a minute to cook, especially because the peppers are hot but so is the cooked pasta. Turn off the stove, it's almost time to eat.

Finish with Temperature and Texture Contrast That wet, ripe tomato adds so much! If you like, gild the lily with a little creaminess (ricotta, goat cheese, parmesan, etc.) but if you're watching calories, skip this cheesiness, it won't be missed.

Bell Pepper Recipes ♥ KitchenParade.com.

What's In Sweet Pepper Pasta Skillet? Pantry Ingredients!

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. It's not that an ingredient can't be substituted by something else but when choosing the substitute, it's important to understand why the original ingredient was present in the first place.

  • Onion A big one, chopped small so that it's there but not obvious among the chopped peppers.
  • "Sweet" Peppers "Sweet" is what we call the chiles that are low on the Scoville scale that measures the relative spiciness (also called "pungency" or "heat") of members of the capsicum family. Sweet peppers are also called bell peppers and they're "sweet" not spicy and sit at the very bottom of the Scoville scale! Believe it or not, this pasta skillet works great with the giant peppers bought in bulk at places like Sam's Club and Costco. Money savers for the win!
  • Half & Half If you keep half & half, sure, use it. But if you have whole milk and cream, just mix the two 1:1, that's what half & half is after all. If you have 1% or 2% milk, use a little less milk and a little more cream.
  • Mustard Just a spoonful adds a touch of much-needed acidity to the cream sauce.
  • Corn & Peas Corn and frozen peas get added late, that's because they take just a minute to cook, right in the skillet itself.
  • Fresh Basil Basil is important but another fresh herb would work, maybe dill, cilantro, even parsley.
  • Tomato The red, ripe and juicy tomato sits on top and remains uncooked, adding contrasts in temperature, texture and even acidity.
  • Something Creamy If you like, add a touch of something cheesy but it's really not a requirement.
  • Pasta Oh, right, the pasta! I keep dried pasta on hand, usually the de Cecco brand. I am smitten with the orecchiette (little ear) shape here because the corn and peas tuck themselves right inside the curve! My recipes allow for just two ounces of pasta per serving, that's about half what other recipes call for. But I make up for it with vegetables! This skillet holds almost three whole pounds of vegetables!

What Makes This Recipe Special

  • It's quick to make, just one skillet (plus the pasta pot), a great new Quick Supper.
  • It's lovely in late summer with home-grown peppers but also works year-round thanks to easy availability of bell peppers.
  • It makes a meal out of those giant bell peppers from grocery stores and club stores.
  • It fills you up without overloading on calories, thanks to a 1:6 proportion of pasta:veggies.

  • Ready to get started? Here's your recipe!
Sweet Pepper Pasta Skillet, another Quick Supper ♥ KitchenParade.com, three colors of bell pepper plus corn, peas and fresh basil. Easy Weeknight Dinner. Budget Friendly.


Hands-on time: 25 minutes
Time-to-table: 25 minutes
Makes 7 cups

This recipe comes together fast! Start the pasta then chop the onion and peppers before beginning to cook the vegetables.
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces (225g) dried pasta
  • 1 large ripe tomato, chopped
  • bits of Homemade Ricotta or feta or goat cheese or grated parmesan, optional but a nice touch
  • Additional fresh basil

PASTA In a large pot, combine the water, salt and dried pasta. Bring the water to a boil, stirring every so often to avoid sticking and to distribute the salt. When the water boils, put the lid on the pot (and don't take it off), turn off the heat and let the pasta cook for the number of minutes suggested on the package. When the timer goes off, check the pasta for doneness, If it's not done, give it another minute or two. Once it's done, drain and keep hot.

SWEET PEPPERS & CREAM SAUCE Chop the onions and bell peppers before beginning to cook so they can cook together. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmery on medium heat, then add the chopped onion and peppers. Sprinkle with salt and let sauté until close to cooked but still firm and bright-colored.

Stir in the half & half and mustard, increasing the heat a bit to bring the liquid to a boil. Let gently boil for a minute or two, cooking the liquid down just a bit.

Stir in the peas, corn, Cooked Pasta and basil ribbons and let cook for a minute or two, just until peas and corn are warm.

TO SERVE Remove the skillet from the heat. Sprinkle the top of the skillet with tomato, cheese (if using) and additional basil.

Dig in!

MAKE-AHEAD TIPS To prep ahead just a bit, chop the onions and pepper earlier in the day.

LEFTOVERS The creamy sauce gets absorbed into the pasta so the dish isn't as pretty but still makes for wonderful leftovers.

VARIATIONS As is, this is a wonderful vegetarian skillet supper but I'm always tempted to top with grilled shrimp or toss in some chopped cooked chicken breast.

ALANNA's TIPS A green pepper really works here, try not to skip it. Green peppers add a savory element that contrasts beautifully with the sweeter red and yellow peppers. That said, I've also used a poblano instead of a green bell pepper and it's really good too. Home-grown and farmers-market bell peppers are smaller than the giant bell peppers from the grocery-store produce sections. Just be sure to collect an entire pound of chopped peppers, no matter how many whole peppers are needed. This recipe is about timing and balance. #1 Undercook the onion and peppers so they don't overcook while the cream sauce cooks down. #2 Half & half is right mix of fat:liquid so that the liquid cooks down without overcooking the onions and peppers. #3 The quick-cooking corn and peas. #4 The brightening touches of mustard and fresh basil.
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Cup: 234 Calories; 7g Tot Fat; 3g Sat Fat; 12mg Cholesterol; 67mg Sodium; 38g Carb; 4g Fiber; 5g Sugar; 7g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 4 & PointsPlus 6 & SmartPoints 8 & Freestyle 6 & myWW green 7 & blue 6 & purple 6

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Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.