Easy Caprese Rigatoni with Creamy Red Pepper Sauce & Smoked Mozzarella

Hiii loves!  It’s Thursday, and we’re having some crazy amazing pasta.

Easy Caprese Rigatoni w/ Creamy Red Pepper Sauce & Smoked Mozzarella

Do you guys love rigatoni?  Because personally, it’s one of my most favorite noodles.  I just love it’s thick and bulky texture, and it’s perfect for balancing out hearty dishes like this.  Yes, THIS.  So in love, so obsessed, so 100% confident this is going to be your new go-to dish.

Grab yo forks!

Easy Caprese Rigatoni w/ Creamy Red Pepper Sauce & Smoked Mozzarella

So, my alleged healthy January kick?  It’s been going so-so at best.  A salad here, a handful of cookies there, a sip of wine that turns into three glasses, and a celery stick for good measure.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint, amirite?  So slowly but surely I’m starting to be less pathetic.  But even though I know I should reaaallly be making an effort to be much stricter, I just can’t help but crave me some pasta.

I’m assuming these sort of mind games happen to everyone, so please indulge me and agree that you’ve experienced this too.  Like, you tell yourself you will eat absolutely no cheese or no carbs or no chocolate and basically have no fun of ANY kind, and guess what?  Literally allll you can dream about is exactly what you shouldn’t be having, it’s a total recipe for disaster.  So to avoid turning into a complete psycho I made this caprese rigatoni, and it was seriously on point.

Easy Caprese Rigatoni w/ Creamy Red Pepper Sauce & Smoked Mozzarella

This recipe has the perfect mix of fresh + hearty vibes, it’s awesomely balanced and it’s so satisfying and filling, even a glutton like me didn’t feel the need to overdo it.  Caprese anything always reminds me of summer and sunshine and all the things winter is not, so I was really digging the idea of doing a little caprese sumthin’ for dinner.  But unfortch it IS still winter, which means the cold , cranky half of me continues to crave foods that are warm and cozy too.  So I made a compromise by incorporating fresh and crisp flavors into a hot and homey dish, and the results were straight-up outstanding.

Easy Caprese Rigatoni w/ Creamy Red Pepper Sauce & Smoked Mozzarella

If you’re a fan of roasted red peppers, then this is totally going to be your jam.  I considered preparing this with a basic marinara sauce, but it just felt too tired and predictable, so I opted for a creamy red pepper sauce instead.  With just a touch of cream to make it silky but not heavy and that gorgeous red pepper flavor, this sauce is a total game changer.  I’m already fiddling with a million ways I can reuse, but it really just worked SO perfectly here.  It differentiated between the flavor and texture of the cherry tomatoes, and something about the sweet peppers against smokey mozzarella was just incredible – I’m struggling to find the words to describe but uch, it totally works.  And yes, you MUST use smoked mozzarella!  It’s such an underutilized and underappreciated cheese, I think we should all be eating tons of it in 2015.

#goals

Easy Caprese Rigatoni w/ Creamy Red Pepper Sauce & Smoked Mozzarella

I know today we’re all about the almost-weekend, but I think this is the perfect Meatless Monday dish.  First, Mondays are awful and if there’s ever a day when you need a little pasta pick-me-up, it’s the start of the work week.  Secondly, are you ever shorter on time than you are on the big ‘ole M?  This recipe is SUPER easy (aka done in 40 minutes), so it’s perfect for your Monday dinner and can even be prepped on Sunday night if you’re feeling extra ambitious.  And since this is such a huge serving it’ll last you for at least a few days, which means your week will be full of pasta and smiles and food that tastes super fab but doesn’t make you fat.

You in?  IN.

Easy Caprese Rigatoni with Creamy Red Pepper Sauce

Ingredients:

  • PASTA:
  • 1 lb Rigatoni Pasta
  • 1 cup Cubed Smoked Mozzarella
  • 1 cup Sliced Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup Chopped Basil
  • 1 cup Part Skim Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • Creamy Red Pepper Sauce (see below)
  • SAUCE:
  • 16oz Jar Roasted Red Peppers, in Oil
  • 1/4 cup Heavy Cream
  • 2 tbsps Grated Parmesan
  • 1 1/2 tsps Basil
  • 1/4 tsp Sea Salt & Coarse Black Peppercorn – approx.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Bring large pot of lightly salted water to a boil, then cook rigatoni till al dente as directly, typically around 10 minutes.*  Drain and return to pot before setting aside.
  3. While pasta cooks, in food processor combine roasted red peppers (+ the oil they’re jarred in), heavy cream, grated parmesan, and basil, blending until smooth.  Salt & pepper mixture to taste, then pulse several times more until well combined.  Set aside.
  4. Add the red pepper sauce, cubed mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and chopped basil to pasta, tossing until evenly coasted.  Next transfer ingredients to oven-safe skillet or casserole dish, then top with shredded mozzarella.  Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until cheese has melted and begins to brown, then remove from oven.  Allow to cool slightly, then plate and serve!

*I always add a tsp of EVOO to my boiling water to prevent pasta from sticking together.

Easy Caprese Rigatoni w/ Creamy Red Pepper Sauce & Smoked MozzarellaI highly recommend pairing with garlic bread 🙂