As I mentioned in my tag awards post, Napa Valley is a favorite vacation destination in my family. We always get to see the best vista points, also the scenery and landscape are always breathtaking...especially during the grape harvest season, the Valley is beautiful not only because of the grapes hanging from the vines but also from the sour-sweet smell of grapes in the air...plus we always have the best food at the restaurants in downtown Napa and Sonoma.
On one such trip, a few years back we also had a funny misadventure, when we traveled to Napa with some friends... we were so busy looking at the landscape in the beautiful wineries that we were late for lunch...by the time we reached downtown Napa it was almost beyond lunchtime and most of the restaurants were way too full and until we found one where there was no wait, we had to handle the fun experience of three kids with their constant "are we there yet"?
The lunch, that followed was definitely one of the best we had in Napa(probably, also because of the long drive to get there) and here is the recipe for one of the pasta dishes that we enjoyed that afternoon, which I have recreated many times, based on memory after that day, at home.
The thing that is different about this pasta is, for one, that it has a crunchy garnish from some fried sage and basil leaves on top of the penne pasta dish with ricotta and bell peppers. For my version, I just tend to saute some sage and basil leaves and garnish the pasta with it...makes for a very nice finish...Hope you enjoy it as much as we did that afternoon!
This dish goes to the Pasta Party Event hosted by Jyoti of Panch Pakwan and Jagruti's event, Joyful eating whilst traveling.
Recipe for Penne Pasta with Ricotta and Bell Peppers:
Serves: 5 or 6
Prep/cook time: 30-35 mins.
1lb.penne pasta (I used whole wheat penne and some spaghetti as well)
3 to 4 cloves garlic cut finely
1tbsp red pepper flakes
2 or 3 bell peppers - cut finely(I used red and green variety)
1 cup skimmed milk ricotta or low-fat ricotta cheese crumbled finely
For topping the pasta:
3 to 4 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
sage and/or basil - few leaves sauted in a little butter or light olive oil
breadcrumbs or toasted croutons - 2tbsp
1 tbsp. light olive oil
Salt, black pepper to taste
1. Start large pot of water to boil for cooking pasta. When water starts to boil, add a little salt(to season pasta) and then add the pasta itself. Let cook for 6 to 7 minutes (whole wheat pasta takes a minute or two longer than the regular pasta to cook). Take off stove and drain pasta when almost done(but not fully cooked - pasta needs to be baked finally)
2. In a pan, add the olive oil, cut/crushed garlic and red pepper flakes(and any additional salt) and saute for a minute or two. Add the vegs. before the garlic starts turning brown. Let cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Then, add the half-cooked pasta to it, alongwith the ricotta cheese. Set aside. Now, set oven to pre-heat at 350degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Once the sauce and the pasta-veg mixture is ready, grease a baking pan with light cooking spray(or butter, if you wish)
4. Now, add the pasta-veg. mixture then, add all the seasonings and toppings over the pasta.
5.Cover the baking dish with aluminium foil and bake for 15 - 20 mins(at 350F), until the top turns golden brown.
Serve warm or at room temperature with garlic bread or soup or side of vegs.