Cheesy Baked Rotini with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce


I have two minutes to write this post….my tiny human is rather unimpressed with the nap schedule I have determined for him, he’s being rather vocal about it at the moment. I hear crying even when I’m alone now. Oh what I would give to have voices in my head. Ah….these are such precious days and they will be gone before I know it. And yet….well….just please pass the wine.

When the Sweeter Thing’s moved to Nashville, we knew no one. Nada. Zip. Ok…except for Jackie and Lauren. My sister’s friends from childhood and high school (which I guess is still childhood?). Anyway…so besides borrowing from my sister’s friend list, we knew no one. We joined a church stat…..and immediately joined a small group. Folks…I can’t say enough how much that saved our sanity. We need people…real people….people who shared our values and who also were honest enough to say…”yea…I fed my kids kit kat bars for lunch today and let them watch The Incredibles four times just to keep my sanity”. Ok, maybe our friends don’t say that, but they don’t judge us when we say it. We needed those people. And we found them in our small group leaders. They have been fabulous friends to us and this week we bid farewell, for now, as they embark on a new journey. In England. Yes, I’m a little concerned that the people I love seem to be fleeing the country but I’m trying not to take it personally. Since their house is all packed up in boxes and they have nothing left to sit on or cook out of, we asked if we could cook them dinner. And I needed a blog post. Two birds, one stone. Boom. Enter this recipe. I have a thing for peppers, not sure why, I just love em. I’ve also always been intimidated by roasted red pepper sauces, not sure why, it just sounded fancy. It’s not hard though. Let me show you.

Start by roasting some peppers. And by roasting I mean, put them in a dish and stick them in the oven. Until they are charred, or “roasted”.


When they are roasted, take them out of the oven and stick them in a bowl covered with foil. Let them sit for 10 minutes, when they have cooled a bit, remove the skins and seeds. They peel right off!


Toss your peppers in a food processor or blender with some tomatoes and pulse until all the large chunks are gone.



Here’s a secret. I made everything to this point early in the day and then stuck it in the fridge until I was ready to make the rest. My brilliance surprises even me.

Heat some olive oil in a LARGE skillet (the one I chose was too small and I had to change it out half way through making this). Toss in some panko crumbs and season with salt and pepper. Toast until lightly browned. Move to a small bowl and toss the toasted crumbs with some parmesan cheese. Set aside.


Wipe out your large skillet and add another tablespoon of olive oil. Add some garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano. Stir for a minute, until fragrant. Add your red pepper/tomato mixture, salt, rotini, and some water. Simmer vigorously, covered, for about 15 minutes, until the pasta is tender.


Transfer to an oven safe baking dish, top with mozzarella cheese and then with the panko crumb mixture. Bake for 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the top is slightly browned. Voila. Done. I cooked up some Italian sausage to go in this, I think chicken would have been delicious as well. The original recipe calls for eggplant…if that’s your thing…go for it. Not my thing….I think…I’ve never actually tried eggplant. Maybe I should. Not sure why I’m still typing…both kids are now asleep. I’m out.


Cheesy Baked Rotini with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Recipe adapted from Annie's Eats


  • 2 red bell peppers
  • ¾ cup panko
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 1/2 tsp. dried minced garlic)
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups water
  • 12 oz. pasta shapes, such as rotini
  • 6 oz. mozzarella, sliced thin or shredded


  • To roast the peppers, preheat the oven to 450˚ F.  Place the whole peppers in a rimmed baking dish.  Let cook, turning every 8-10 minutes, until the surface is evenly charred, about 20-25 minutes total.  Transfer the roasted peppers to a bowl, cover with foil and let stand for 10 minutes to cool and loosen the skins.  Once cool enough to handle, gently peel the skins from the peppers and discard.  Seed the peppers and roughly chop.  Set aside.  Reduce the oven temperature to 375˚ F.
  • In a large skillet, combine the panko, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Toast the breadcrumbs over medium heat until lightly browned, stirring frequently.  Transfer to a bowl and let cool slightly.  Toss with ½ cup of the Parmesan.  Wipe out the skillet.
  • In a food processor or blender, combine the diced tomatoes and roasted red peppers.  Pulse briefly to combine and no large chunks remain.  Set aside.
  • Lower the heat to medium-low and heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.  Add in the garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes.  Sauté just until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds.  Stir in the tomato-pepper mixture and 1 teaspoon of salt, and increase the heat to medium-high.  Stir in 3½ cups of water and the pasta.  Cover and cook at a vigorous simmer, stirring often, until the pasta is tender, about 15-18 minutes.
  • If the pasta seems to thick, stir in the remaining ½ cup of water.  Add in the remaining 1 cup of Parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir to combine, then top with the mozzarella.  Sprinkle the panko mixture over the top.  Bake about 10 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the topping is well browned.


  1. Sara says

    Julie, we love you and your sweet family so much, and we are so grateful for your friendship! Thank you for hosting us for dinner and loving on us with not only food but also small group camaraderie and home improvement tips (and tools!). We are going to miss being so close, but I am already looking forward to Skype dates and random texts about the absurdity of the word pants meaning underwear in England and my kids picking up a British accent.

  2. says

    Great recipe and wonderful story. This is an antioxidant rich meal that has meal smiling ear to ear knowing an awesome mom is kicking butt in the kitchen for her family!