Everybody has at least one shelf-stable something that their pantry feels incomplete without, the kind of ingredient that can inspire dinner on even the least inspiring nights. For me, that something is a jar of roasted red peppers.
A few tender, sweet, slightly smoky peppers aren’t a meal on their own, but they’re a versatile jumping off point that can take you in a ton of different directions. With a container to my name, I can bulk up a niçoise salad, sweeten a pot of stewy black beans, flavor a tuna noodle casserole, or blitz together romesco—all good choices when I’m looking for big payoff without a lot of work (i.e., most of the time). Plus, jarred peppers are inexpensive, so you can easily build a dish around them that won’t break the bank. In my opinion, any smart cook is smarter with a jar on their shelf.
Lately I’ve been turning roasted red peppers into pantry pasta sauce: flavorful, thick, creamy, and (almost accidentally) totally vegan, thanks to the inclusion of a can of white beans and some starchy pasta water. Everything comes together in one pot while you boil your favorite pasta shape in another; in under an hour, you can transform a collection of mostly pantry staples into a bright and homey meal.
To make this easy dinner, you’ll first cook down your finely chopped peppers with aromatics until soft and fragrant, then add lemon juice and zest for a bit of brightness. I like the peppers that come whole, but you can definitely use strips and approximate amounts—they’ll all get minced eventually anyway. Adding the beans at this stage means breaking them down a bit by crushing them with the back of your spoon and starting to integrate them into the rest of the ingredients to create a rough mash. Finally, you’ll add your pasta water bit by bit on a lower heat, stirring and mashing as you go, until creamy and combined. All that’s left is to toss in your pasta; I love this with something tubular that the rustic sauce can hide inside.
For a crispy finishing touch (that you’ll actually make first, to use the same pot for easy cleanup), the recipe calls for a batch of “garlic bread breadcrumbs,” so named because they taste like a pulverized version of the beloved side dish. Parsley and garlic do the flavor heavy lifting, and the result is what my colleague Joe Sevier called “spoonworthy, TBH.” I—a person whose fiancé found her eating cooled breadcrumbs straight from the pan with her fingers—couldn’t agree more. On top of the rich and saucy pasta, a hearty sprinkling provides just the right amount of texture and a fresh bite to boot.
I’m not saying it’ll make you retire the myriad other uses of roasted red peppers for good, but you’ll probably keep this one on repeat for a while.Kendra Vaculin
Olive oil: $0.91, Breadcrumbs: $0.63, Garlic: $0.20, Parsley: $0.25, Rigatoni: $1.99, Onion: $0.50, Whole roasted red peppers: $0.89, Tomato paste: $0.12, Lemon: $0.89, Red pepper flakes: $0.06, White beans: $1.29. Total: $7.73 ($1.93 per serving). For more on how Epicurious prices out recipes, click here.
Use It Up
Something great about this pantry pasta is that you’re using a lot of whole containers of ingredients, so you won’t have a ton left over. A whole box of rigatoni, the zest and juice of a lemon, the entire can of beans and jar of peppers—you’ll make good use of the stuff you shop for. But you will have extra breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, and red pepper flakes. Use them to make this cucumber and meatball salad, this chicken Milanese, or these salmon burgers.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious