Tricolor Shells with Roasted Carrot Parmesan Sauce

There is only one word to describe this dish: UNFREAKINGBELIEVABLE.  Not only have I never roasted carrots before trying this recipe, but I have never had a pasta sauce made with anything other than Parmesan or tomatoes.  I am now an alternative pasta sauce convert!

Surprisingly, I tried this recipe pretty much as I found it.  Since the sauce was so unusual (for me), I thought it best to try it without tweaking the recipe much, to provide a baseline from which I can determine if I like the concept of carrot sauce at all (p.s., I very much do).  The only major change I made was to use light cream instead of heavy cream, which was used in the original recipe at the Cooking Photographer.  No real reason for the change, other than that I though I’d save a few calories and fat grams so I could wholeheartedly enjoy the parmesan cheese in this recipe. 

This sauce is thick, rich, and oh, so flavorful.  Roasting the garlic and carrots with some herbs renders them so sweet and tasty that I could have eaten them right out of the pan, without turning them into sauce!  I found some interesting tricolor shell pasta at Whole Foods (the green and red shells flavored with spinach and tomato, respectively), and thought they’d work well with this recipe.  Now that I’ve made the sauce, I think you could use it on any pasta, short or long.  I am particularly fond of the shells, though, as they fill up with the sauce and burst deliciously on your tastebuds. For parents who have a hard time getting their kids to eat veggies, make this kid-friendly sauce before the kids come into the kitchen, and they’ll never guess they’re eating carrots!

Next time I think I will add some crushed red pepper flakes to the carrots before roasting them.  As delicious as this dish was, I think it could use a teeny bit of heat to kick the flavor into the next galaxy.

Tricolor Shells with Roasted Carrot Parmesan Sauce
adapted from Bugs Bunny’s Pasta at the Cooking Photographer

1 pound of organic carrots, sliced in 1-inch rounds
5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons canola oil
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 Tbs fresh thyme
2/3 cup light cream
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for serving
1 pound of pasta
1 and 1/2 cups reserved pasta water
1 1/2 cups frozen peas (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl toss carrot rounds and garlic with the oil, using your hand to thoroughly coat the carrots and garlic with oil. Season well with salt, pepper, and thyme.

Bake in a 9×13 inch baking pan about 45-50 minutes until carrots are tender. Take the pan out and toss halfway through the cooking time.

When carrots are tender, remove from oven. Cook the pasta in a generous amount of salted water to al dente according to package directions. Drain pasta and return to pot.  Reserve 1 1/2 cups of pasta cooking water.

In a blender or food processor puree the carrots and garlic together with the heavy cream and parmesan cheese until smooth.  Add cooking water to blender as needed to achieve a smooth but thick consistency.

Toss pasta with carrot sauce, (add 1 ½ cups frozen petite peas here if using), adding more pasta water a little at a time until you get a nice consistency and the pasta is evenly coated.

Serve with parmesan cheese and crusty bread/garlic bread.


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