Whole Wheat Penne with Creamy Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Sauce

Sometimes I cheat.

What I mean is, we’re not all Martha Stewart around here, and when the days are filled with errands and dishes and visits to the library and impromptu soccer matches and dog park excursions, dinner is sometimes a matter of figuring out how most gracefully to use whatever’s on hand, even if it’s pre-made soup from a box.

Last night’s dinner was an example of this–a dish I made up out of bits and pieces–not a lot local this time, and even some pre-processed elements.  But it was hearty, filling, and really, really good.

I started with a slice off a smoked ham I have sitting in my fridge–you could omit this meaty part if you’re a vegetarian.  I peppered it heavily and browned it on both sides in a big skillet with butter and olive oil.  Around the sides of the good-sized ham slice, I threw in a thinly-sliced yellow onion.

When the ham was browned, I removed it to the cutting board and sauteed the onions a little more ’til they were starting to brown a little, then dumped in about half a cup of white wine I had left over from a chicken braising project.

I scraped the browned bits of ham-and-onion goodness off the bottom to incorporate with the wine, and tossed in about 1/4 cup of finely chopped parsley.  I’ve been using the Prezzemolo Gigante parsley I grew this year–which is bar none the best-tasting parsley I’ve ever had anywhere.

Also into the pan went about half a can of diced organic tomatoes that I chopped a bit more finely.  And then, the processed bit: about a half box (that’d be 16 oz.) of Pacific Natural Foods Organic Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato soup I had in the fridge.

That soup is really tasty on its own, and it doesn’t have creepy additives like the big name canned soups.  So, I feel comfortable eating it and adding it to my recipes in a pinch.  I’m looking forward to trying some of their other varieties and seeing how I can use them in my cooking. (And no, they’re not paying me to say that.)

I let the soup/sauce simmer a bit, and sliced the ham into matchstick-sized pieces and added that back into the pan.  Then I whisked in about half a cup of plain whole milk yogurt.

When the pasta was cooked according to the package directions (a full 16 oz. box of whole wheat penne), I tossed it with a nubbin of butter and then mixed the pasta into the sauce in the pan.

If I made this again, I think I would add a little sage (and maybe a pinch of dried thyme) along with the parsley, and maybe even a little more black pepper at the end.  You definitely should not add salt to this dish–there’s plenty in the soup and the ham.

It’s also nice to grate a little Parmesan on the portions as you’re serving them–it adds a little more depth to the creaminess.  If you use a sweet and flavorful parsley like I did, that really makes the dish in terms of flavor and a hint of green in the pinkish sauce.

Local ingredients: onion, parsley.

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