Penne Pasta for Pemma (and her Peerless Palate)

Today is the birthday of my very dearest friend: Pemma.  We have had so many adventures together from escapades in the kitchen to musical fun and traveling!

Pem likes bugs.  And makes friends with them at restaurants:

And she is a secret spy… when it comes to the intrigue of avocados:

She has such a good palate, that her favourite game (besides ‘Name That Tune’ when you’re stuck in a van for six hours) is to play ‘guess what ingredients could possibly be in this dish’.  I think I’ve heard: “there’s got to be cumin in this” more times than I can count.  And she’s always right.

To celebrate her birthday, I’d like to dedicate this recipe to her — a version of the pasta we’ve made together since high school, full of whatever fresh veg are on hand and a garlicky tomato sauce.


The smell of this sauce cooking makes me want to invent smell-o-vision so that I can share it with you via the magic of the internet.  Until that can happen, you’re going to have to make up a batch of your own.  The sauce recipe makes enough to freeze some so you can enjoy the fresh burst of summer tomatoes in the dead of winter… and it freezes well.  If you just want to make enough for this dish, feel free to halve the recipe.


Happy, Happy Birthday Pem! Here’s to a great year filled with friends, fun, travel, love, nutella, and chocolate cake!

Thanks for being such an amazing, supportive, inspiring friend.


Pemma’s Penne Pasta
Serves 4

  • 1 box whole wheat penne pasta (farfalle, a.k.a. “bow-tie pasta”, also is great here)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 c. mushrooms, sliced (portobello, cremini, shitake, and button all work well here – use a combination of what you like!)
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 c. spinach leaves
  • 1-2 c. Roasted Garlicky Tomato Basil Sauce, (recipe below)
  • 8 sundried tomatoes, finely diced
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp. parmesan or goat’s cheese, (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook pasta according to package directions until al dente, or the way you like it.

In a large pan, heat olive oil.  Add shitake mushrooms and red pepper, and sautee until cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Add the spinach, and cook until just wilted, about 45-90 seconds.

In a large bowl, combine cooked pasta with Roasted Garlicky Tomato Basil Sauce, mushroom/red pepper/spinach mixture, and sundried tomatoes.  Drizzle the balsamic vinegar over top, and crumble or grate the cheese over the whole dish.

Eat with your best friends!


Roasted Garlicky Tomato Basil Sauce
Inspired by Alton Brown’s Tomato Sauce Recipe, Yields around 6-8 cups and freezes well.

  • 40 roma tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 8 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 20 leaves of basil
  • 1 c. white wine, (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp. dried red chili flakes
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350F.

Place tomatoes on 2 baking sheets lined with aluminum foil, cut side up.

Drizzle olive oil over top of the tomatoes, and sprinkle with onion, garlic & basil.

Bake at 350F for 2 hours.  Then turn up the oven to 400F and roast for another 30 minutes, until the tomatoes are slightly caramelized.  Remove from the oven and put all the tomatoes in a blender.  Blitz until everything is smooth.

In a large pot, combine pureed tomatoes, white wine, and chili flakes, and bring sauce to a boil.  Turn the heat down to low, and let the sauce simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Season to taste with salt & pepper, and serve with everything.

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Categories: Main Course, Sauce, Side Dish, Vegetarian


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7 Comments on “Penne Pasta for Pemma (and her Peerless Palate)”

  1. Pemma
    September 15, 2010 at 6:33 am #

    This is the most unique and wonderful birthday present!!!! Thank you!!! I will treasure my sauce. Love Pemm

    • September 15, 2010 at 7:55 am #

      You are most welcome — enjoy it!!!
      So glad to have been able to celebrate with you. xo


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