pasta with red pepper sauce
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Pasta with red peppers, or pasta peperonata, with silky red and yellow pepper strands cooked down to sweet and umami sauce. I’ll pick this over marinara or arrabbiata every time.
Tomato sauce for pasta is such a classic it should have its own Sevres model. Not that it is any kind of constant in terms of ingredients for instance: fresh tomatoes, tinned tomatoes, passata or puree – anything goes.
I certainly have nothing against good tomato sauce but pasta with nothing else but it is a little lacking. I feel the need to shower it with Parmesan if it’s served to me, or wish it had a little bit of sausage sliced into the sauce. If you have similar thoughts even about puttanesca zinged with olives, or arrabbiata with the heat of pepperoncini, try red peppers.
It isn’t strictly necessary to use only red peppers; in fact the sauce will be more vibrant with a mix of red, orange and yellow, one of each. But ‘red pepper’ is sort of generic – otherwise you’d be well entitled to think that my ‘pasta with pepper sauce’ is perhaps cacio e pepe.
The sauce is sometimes called peperonata for a good reason. But while peperonata, a dish of cooked down peppers and onions in its own right, is quite chunky, this sauce should have the peppers almost dissolved, thin, limp and wilted to release maximum sweetness and flavour.
I like to add anchovy paste to sauces for pasta; it’s the umami central, even more so than whole anchovy fillet melted into the sauce. Italian chilli paste also works better here than fresh chillies – but be careful as it is a deceptively potent stuff. And yes – after all that I add some tomato puree but it’s an addition only for a touch of sourness; it doesn’t dominate the dish.
pasta with red pepper sauceServings: 2Time: 40 minutes
- ½ tsp cumin seeds, ground in pestle and mortar
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 3 large red or orange peppers, cored and thinly sliced
- 2 large garlic cloves, sliced
- a pinch of salt
- 1 tsp anchovy paste
- ½ tsp pepperoncino paste
- 1 tbsp. (30g) tomato puree
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 200g (2 cups) pasta, fusilli or penne
- grated Parmesan
1. In a large sauté or frying pan dry toast ground cumin until fragrant. Add the olive oil, peppers, garlic, sprinkle with salt and cook covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the peppers have softened and reduced add both pastes and tomato puree, sprinkle with sugar, stir and keep on low heat.
2. While the peppers are cooking, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook pasta according to the packet instructions. When ready, drain it with a slotted spoon straight into the pan with the pepper sauce, toss and stir well to coat.
3. Serve generously sprinkled with grated Parmesan.