Sunday 13 April 2014

Red peppers: in pasta bake, stuffed and in soup

Sometimes a recipe lodges itself in my mind and refuses to budge.  No matter how I cook around it, I am called by an dinner that must be mine.  So it was with the pasta bake that was called Dad's Friday Night Pasta Dish by Half Baked Harvest which lured me with amazingly beautiful photos, a great story and a simple dish.  The clincher was that red capsicums were dirt cheap.  So let me tell you about my week with red capsicums (or peppers).

I bought a bag of red capsicums on sale.  The pasta bake called but I didn't quite have the time or ingredients.  Instead I roasted a capsicum on a gas flame and made Isa's Roasted Red Pepper Mac and Cheese.  It was very good, especially with the remainder of my sweet potato mash from the enchiladas added.  I loved it but the pasta bake still beckoned.

Then I went shopping and bought more red peppers and basil on sale.  The looming use by date on the basil really pushed me because I knew if I didn't use it, it would be a slimy mess in the fridge.  (Been there, done that!)  I made tofu bacon and considered using the Vegusto vegan mozzarella in the fridge but I just wasn't sure enough (it melted ok but had no strings) and used regular mozzarella.

It was in cooking the angel hair pasta that I came unstuck.  As usual I put on the pasta and checked the packet for time.  This one only took 2 minutes.  Which meant I didn't have the 10 minutes I expected to get together herbed oil to toss the pasta in.  Then a plum crumble slice came out of the oven at the same time the pasta was ready.  In my haste I poured boiling water over my hand while draining the pasta.

The burn really hurt.  I made the rest of dinner with my fingers pressed against a zooper dooper (fruit ice stick) from the freezer and wrapped in a tea towel.  Otherwise it was too painful.  Finally I looked up the web for ideas and wrapped it in clingwrap.  The pain went away.  It was a miracle that I recommend to anyone else unfortunately enough to have this problem.

What with making tofu bacon, grating cheese and chopping parsley, it wasn't quite as quick as the recipe suggested but then I just didn't take short cuts.  It was delicious.  E loved it for the same reason I was a bit unsure.  It didn't have enough vegetables.  It was also a bit oily because I added a bit more oil and the sundried tomato oil.

One of the things I really liked about the recipe was the author saying that when her dad made this dish it was always different.  I would really like to try it again.  Sylvia enjoyed the angel hair pasta tossed with oil before I added the herbs but not after.  I would like more vegies.  I forgot to season the pasta so the bake was a bit lacking in flavour.  I have added a few changes to what I did below to reflect what I would do if I made it again.  If I made it again I would like more capsicums on top.  I'd love to try it with vegan mozzarella.  There are many possibilities.

The possibilities for the dish are not just about how to prepare it but how to use the leftovers.  I also made a lovely vegetable and bean soup last week.  I had decided to serve the remaining noodles with a stuffed capsicum (yes I call them stuffed peppers too - either makes sense to me) but ran out of time.  It was far easier to put the stuffing in the fridge, chop the remaining pasta bake and mix with the vegie soup.  And so delicious.

The next night I had the stuffing and the red capsicums and it was quite easy to just stuff them.  I used home cooked white beans from the freezer, tofu bacon, kale from the farmers market, and some leftover red pepper mac and cheese sauce.  (If you didn't have a cheese sauce you could use some nut butter, nutritional yeast flakes and mustard.)

I used half the vegan mozzarella on top and grated some to mix into the stuffing.  It probably would have been better to cut it into chunks rather than grate it.  The mozzarella on top was brilliant and has converted me from a skeptic to a fan of Vegusto.  The taste is great, the mouthfeel is right and it even crisps on top.  (I still am not a fan of the mozzarella when cold but have been loving it on grilled cheese on toast.)

I was surprised at how well these stuffed peppers worked.  I followed what I did in my nut roast stuffed peppers recipe on the blog.  I wondered if a bit longer might be good as I loved the one pepper was starting to char and blister.  What was really great about this recipe is that most stuffed peppers recipe seem to involve some sort of carbs or grains.  This one is big on protein.  Yet E didn't even feel in need of a slice of bread with this because it was so filling.

I often find stuffed peppers a bit boring and old school vegetarian.  These ones were full of interesting flavours and very modern.  And like the pasta bake, the recipe is open to endless variations.  I am sure I will make these again but with whatever takes my fancy.

I am sending the pasta bake to Manjiri at Slice of Me for Pasta Please which focuses on olive oil this month.  I am sending the stuffed peppers to Avika at A Day Through My Life #70 for My Legume Love Affair, which is managed by Lisa and founded by Susan.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Chocolate lime energy slice, the park and the beach
Two years ago: Purple Pomegranate Stew
Three years ago: Cheesey bikkies: what not to do
Four years ago: Butterscotch Bounty from Ricki
Five years ago: Wholemeal Chocolate Cake
Six years ago: Posh chocolate orange biscuits

Red Capsicum and Mozzarella Pasta Bake
Adapted from Half Baked Harvest
Serves 6 to 8

1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Handful parsley finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
500g angel hair pasta
1/3 cup sliced kalamata olives
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
125g tofu bacon bits, fried til crisp
300-400g mozzarella cheese, grated
3-4 red capsicums (bell peppers), sliced
Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Freshly torn basil, for topping

Preheat oven to 190 C.  Heat water for pasta.  Meanwhile, in a pasta dish, about 13 by 9 inch or a little smaller, mix olive oil with herbs, garlic, paprika, pepper and salt.  Cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to instructions on the packet (mine only had to be simmered about 2 minutes).  Drain and toss in herbed oil.  Sprinkle pasta with olive, sundried tomatoes and tofu bacon.  Then sprinkle with about 3/4 of mozzarella cheese.  Arrange red capsicums over the cheese.  Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese.  Bake for 45-60 minutes or until capsicums are well cooked.  Keeps for a day or two in the fridge.

Peppers stuffed with white beans and kale
Original recipe by Johanna @ Green Gourmet Giraffe
Serves 2

1-2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 bunch of purple kale, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans
1/2 cup PPK Roasted Red Pepper Mac and Cheese sauce
2-3 tbsp chopped sun dried tomatoes
1/3 cup fried tofu bacon bits
Handful of parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 large red peppers (capsicums)
100g vegan mozzarella

Preheat oven to 200 C.

Heat olive oil in frypan over medium heat.  Fry onion for 5 to 10 minutes until golden brown.  Add kale and cook another 5 minutes or so until cooked.  Stir in garlic and remove from heat.  Meanwhile mix together beans, cheese sauce, sundried tomatoes, tofu bacon, parsley and seasoning.  Grate about half the mozzarella into the bean mixture.

Prepare the red peppers by removing stem, membrane and seeds.  Microwave each open side down for about 2 to 3 minutes or until softening but not collapsing.  Stuff each with half the mixture, packing it in with the back of a spoon.  Stand in an ovenproof dish.  (I used a small ramekin in my dish to help the peppers stand up.)  Slice the remaining mozzarella and place over the top of the filling. 

Bake for 45 minutes or until cheese is golden brown and the peppers are soft and starting to blister.  Eat hot.

On the Stereo:
Ball of Wax, audio quarterly, volume 26: a tribute to the anthology of American Folk Music - various artists


  1. Your ways with leftovers are beyond amazing.

    1. Thanks Hannah - nothing like giving new life to leftovers :-)

  2. Wow. These leftovers look delicious!

  3. Ouch! Sorry to hear about your hand. That sort of thing happens to me when I try and do too many things at once :(

    1. Thanks Lorraine - yes I was focusing on other stuff when I poured the hot water on my hand - half surprised I did it because I can usually do it on auto and half surprised I don't do it more often because I so often multi task

  4. What a great set of uses for the peppers! I love the look of the stuffed ones in particular, but am sorry about your burnt hand. I too find angel hair pasta unhelpfully quick cooking (I always rely on pasta cooking time to do other things and it catches me out) and having to continue cooking with a scalded hand sounds very challenging.

    1. Thanks Kari - I really was inspired by them being on special - usually I just have a bit of red capsicum chopped in meals rather than feature them. I really liked the angel hair pasta but like you I expect to have a chunk of time to prepare other food once the pasta goes on was caught out

  5. Wow!! Amazing recipe.. Thanks for participating in MLLA 70.

    1. Thanks Avika - pleased to be part of MLLA - look forward to the round up

  6. I am so sorry you burned yourself! It's funny how sometimes you buy ingredients for something and then make something different and have to buy the ingredients again. That happens to me so often. The pasta bake looks great!

    1. Thanks Mihl - yes I am not much of a meal planner because so often my plans go awry - though not necessarily in a bad way, just a change of direction.

  7. I love Isa's mac and cheese recipes (and cheese sauces) - they always seem to come out well. Ditto stuffed peppers - always a favourite here, normally old-school with rice. I need to get some beans and kale into them now! Hope your hand's better.

    1. Thanks Joey - yes mac and cheese and stuffed peppers seem pretty reliable recipes - I think I have an aversion to stuffed peppers because a vegetarian friend always was served them at his in-laws and it made them seem dull - but I actually like them - and probably more so for rarely having them because they are something different for me. Yes hand much better thanks to clingwrap :-)

  8. I've never seen a spaghetti pasta bake before but I think it looks really interesting and unusual! Hope you have recovered from your burn!

  9. Fabulous set of recipes using red peppers - I love them - A LOT and your red pepper pasta bake sounds very delicious. Thanks for linking to the #PastaPlease challenge for April' 2014.Cheers! Manjiri -


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