Creamy roasted red pepper pasta was on my recipe bucket list for years. I initially spotted the concept in a magazine. Those perfectly twirled noodles had a beautiful blushing hue, but the dish was rich with cream and cheese. Fortunately, I’ve discovered that dairy really isn’t needed to enjoy this insanely delicious meal.
I finally decided to test my own version of dairy-free roasted red pepper pasta when I was experimenting with Ripple Half & Half. It cooked very well in Dairy-free Bechamel Base Sauce, so it seemed like a natural contender to add light creaminess to this sauce. And it didn’t disappoint. The finish was perfectly smooth and rich with bold, complementary flavors.
But you might notice that I have a lot of options for this recipe. I tested this dairy-free roasted red pepper pasta every which way to ensure that almost anyone can enjoy it. And along the way, I also found some flavor variations that we really enjoyed.
Option & Variation Tasting Notes
I use cashews to help thicken the sauce in this roasted red pepper pasta because, like many of you, we can and do eat tree nuts. I think the cashews pair with the Ripple Half & Half to add creamy depth that is hard to match. But since Ripple Half & Half is a top allergen-free dairy alternative, I wanted to include a delicious nut-free option for all.
For the nut-free option, I kept it really simple by using starch. The end result was delicious and retained that nice, smooth finish. But if you prefer a roux, you can add 2 tablespoons of flour with the garlic and crushed red pepper. Saute everything for a minute or two before adding to the blender to smooth out. Let the sauce bubble as needed to reduce to your desired consistency.
For a slightly cheesy variation, I added a nutritional yeast option. Honestly, we loved it both ways. I did find that the flavor of my roasted red peppers varied between batches, even though I used the exact same brand every time. So sometimes the nutritional yeast helped to balance the flavor, but sometimes it was totally unnecessary.
I use jarred roasted red bell peppers in this recipe for two reasons. One is obviously ease. The second is for seamless depth of flavor. If you opt to roast your own bell peppers, you will want to season the dish quite a bit more. And jarred roasted bell peppers can vary quite a bit in taste. I specifically used the Trader Joe’s 12-ounce roasted red bell peppers. If you choose another brand, you might need to adjust the salt and lemon juice to taste.
For that extra touch of brightness, I add just a teaspoon of an acidic ingredient to this recipe. We liked fresh-squeezed lemon juice best, but balsamic vinegar adds its own unique flavor. It actually melded quite well in a batch I made with nutritional yeast.
No dairy-free half & half? I substitute lite canned coconut milk. In a pinch, you can use dairy-free milk beverage, it will just be a little less creamy.
This post is sponsored by Ripple Foods, the makers of dairy-free high-protein milk beverages, half & half, and new Greek-style yogurts! All of their products are also gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, vegan, and top allergen-free. The roasted red pepper pasta recipe, idea, photos, and product opinions shared here are all my own.
Special Diet Notes: Roasted Red Pepper Pasta
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, optionally gluten-free, optionally nut-free, peanut-free, soy-free, vegan, plant-based, and vegetarian.
- 12 to 16 ounces dry pasta (use gluten free, if needed; see Pasta Note below)
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or olive oil over medium heat
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- ¼ cup raw cashews (see Nut-free Option below)
- 2 (12-ounce) jars roasted red bell peppers, drained very well (see notes in post above)
- ¾ cup dairy-free half & half alternative (I use Ripple Original; can sub lite canned coconut milk)
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice (can sub balsamic vinegar)
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper (optional)
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 4 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and saute for 1 minute. Remove the skillet from the heat.
- Grind the cashews in a spice grinder until powdered.
- Place the ground cashews, drained roasted peppers, dairy-free half & half, lemon juice, and salt in your blender. Puree until very smooth, about 1 minute.
- Pour the sauce back into your skillet and cook over medium-low heat, whisking often, for about 5 to 10 minutes, or until lightly thickened. If you make it ahead, it will thicken more in the refrigerator. If desired, stir in the black pepper.
- Toss the sauce with your cooked pasta to serve.
- Store leftover sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Nut-free Option: Substitute 2 tablespoons of non-GMO cornstarch for the cashews. Do not overcook the sauce if using starch, as the starch will break down if cooked too long. See the post above for other options.
Cheesy/Depth Flavor Variation: Taste test the sauce, and if more depth of flavor is desired, blend in 1 to 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, to taste. I often omit it, but sometimes it works nicely to round things out.