A spinach, ricotta and roasted red pepper pasta dish gets dinner on the table in 20 minutes flat.
A spinach, ricotta and roasted red pepper pasta dish gets dinner on the table in 20 minutes flat. (Erin Alderson)

When I first started dating my nonvegetarian husband, I was always trying to come up with meals that the two of us could enjoy. I could always rely on pasta as a bridge between our two eating habits. A hearty pan of lasagna or a cheese-stuffed ravioli quickly became staples in our kitchen and the entry into more meatless dinners.

Of course, hectic weeknights don't always allow the time for homemade pasta or lasagna. Some nights, dinner needs to be on the table within 20 minutes to keep pace with our busy schedules. Not only does this dish come together quickly, it's also great when the heaviness of lasagna or macaroni and cheese don't sound appealing. Pasta tossed with a bit of butter, olive oil or pesto and combined with a modest dose of cheese and vegetables makes for a lighter and quicker dish.

The pesto for this recipe can be made ahead. I use spinach to help supplement the pesto when basil isn't at its peak, but kale, Swiss chard or arugula make great replacements, too. If red peppers are in season, try roasting a large batch to use throughout the week. Place the red peppers under the broiler, turning occasionally, and heat until charred.

Sacramento blogger Erin Alderson writes Naturally Ella (naturallyella.com), a seasonal, whole foods and vegetarian-centric recipe site for the whole family.

 

Spinach-Pesto Pasta with Roasted Red Peppers and Ricotta
Serves 2 generously
 
Pesto:
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup fresh basil
1 cup fresh packed baby spinach
2 tablespoons hazelnuts
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, optional
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
 
Pasta
8 ounces whole wheat pasta
1 roasted red pepper,diced
1/3 cup fresh ricotta cheese
 
1. To make pesto, pulse garlic in a blender or food processor to mince. Add the remaining ingredients for the pesto and pulse until well combined. Taste and adjust flavors with olive oil, lemon juice, or sea salt if needed. If pesto needs to be thinned down slightly, add 1-2 tablespoons of extra olive oil or water.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil with a pinch of salt. Add pasta, turn heat down, and cook until pasta is tender, 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, and place in a bowl. While pasta is still hot, add pesto and roasted red peppers. Sprinkle ricotta on top and fold into the pasta dish. Serve pasta while still warm.