One of my favorite magazines is Real Simple. It features crafts, cooking, decorating, and well pretty much everything that you wish you would have thought of. I came across this recipe a few years ago after I had just moved out of my parent’s house into my own apartment. I was drawn to this recipe because of its simplicity (I mentioned I was living on my own right?) and the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a bad pasta dish.
It’s hard to believe something simple, with so few ingredients, could be so rewarding. But trust me, it is. This dish is what I would consider a ‘classic’ recipe. When I hear classic, I automatically think of beauty, elegance, and grace much like Princess Diana. Or I think about the old, boxy Mercedes and Volvo cars I see driving on the road today. Even though they’re 15+ years old they don’t look one bit out of place. Classic pieces are timeless and this is one of those dishes.
The steps to this recipe are very easy to follow, however here’s some things I’ve learned along the way:
1. I didn’t know what bocconcini was however I’m glad I do now as you will literally find yourself eating the bocconcini straight off the cutting board. Bocconcini is simply fresh mozzarella. It’s typically shaped in small or medium sized balls and packed in water. You can find this cheese not near the pre-sliced deli cheeses of your super market but near the finer cheese section. Make sure to look at how many ounces are in the package before buying it. I haven’t found one that’s a perfect 12 ounces, so I will typically buy two containers (totaling 16 oz.) and reserve the extra cheese for a quick snack after work. Make sure to cut the cheese into bite size pieces as the cheese will melt when you add it to the hot pasta. You’ll notice in the directions that the cheese and remaining ingredients are added at the end and cook for only 1 minute before the meal is done. This seems like a short amount of time but after making this recipe a few times I understand why. If you cook these ingredients longer than 1 minute the cheese begins to melt and combine with the other cheese pieces, producing good size globs of cheese. Don’t worry I’ve had this happen a few times. The dish is not ruined. If anything you may want to use a knife to cut through it for serving.
2. The original recipe calls for red bell peppers, however depending what time of year it is, red peppers can be expensive. I’ve tried this recipe with red, yellow, and green peppers. Because it tastes good with any color I buy the cheapest peppers.
3. Don’t forget to reserve the pasta water!!!!!!!! The instructions call this out, however it’s very easy to forget when you’re busy in the kitchen. The pasta water really helps enhance the flavors of this dish. Trust me as I’ve had to add regular water after accidently dumping the water down the drain and it’s NOT the same. Put a ladle or deep spoon next to the pasta as it’s boiling to help serve as a reminder. I find it’s easiest to scoop the hot water out vs. pouring it into a measuring cup.
4. I’ve made this recipe with arugula and without. That was the first time my husband and I tried arugula and we didn’t really care for it. Now the recipe is even more simple for me as I don’t add the arugula. Even so, the dish still has such a great taste! My advice….if you’ve had arugula before and liked it, definitely include it. But if you didn’t like it or you’re not sure, just omit it from the beginning. If you’re feeling adventurous you can always incorporate it next time.
I haven’t made this recipe in awhile because I in all honesty I lost the magazine it was featured in. When I started this blog I knew it would be a meal I’d want to share and that’s when I had the idea to search Real Simple’s website. They had it! Now I can easily access it anytime I want to make it. When I made this dish after not making it for so long, my husband said how much he liked it and how we should make it more often.
Pasta with Peppers and Mozzarella
Adapted from Pasta with Peppers and Mozzarella, by Sara Quessenberry and Kate Merker
Prep Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 20 mins
- 12 ounces short pasta (penne or gemelli)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 bell peppers (you pick the color!), thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 bunches arugula, thick stems removed (about 6 cups)
- 12 ounces bocconcini (small balls of fresh mozzarella packed in water). Cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Cook the pasta in a large pot according to the package directions. RESERVE ½ cup of the pasta water before draining the pasta. Set aside reserved water and drained pasta. Carefully wipe out the pot (use oven mitts as it will still be hot).
- Heat the oil in the pasta pot over medium heat. Add the bell peppers and garlic. Stir occasionally and cook 5 to 7 minutes or until the peppers are tender.
- Add the arugula, bocconcini, cooked pasta, reserved pasta water, and salt & pepper.
- Mix well and cook until the arugula is just wilted, about 1 minute.