This sauce basically consists of only sweet bell peppers and olive oil. Yes, we need a little salt and pepper and maybe some hot red pepper flakes, but honestly it is the flavor from the peppers and olive oil that makes this sauce good enough to eat with a spoon, without even the pasta. I’ve done it. Put it on a crusty piece of Italian bread, and you will be delighted with the taste and texture. The beautiful, rich colors of the peppers makes this a feast for the eyes as well. But put this sauce on rigatoni or any other tubular shaped pasta, and you will be very, very happy.
In 1988, my sister gave me the cookbook “Bugialli on Pasta.” I have made many (almost all) of the recipes for pasta in this book, and love them all. However, when I came across this recipe I remember thinking that it was very different from any sauce I had ever had. It actually seemed like an odd combination to me…..roasted peppers and pasta? I loved roasted peppers and mozzarella. Why not roasted peppers and pasta? I gave it a try, and have been making it regularly ever since. It is probably the most requested pasta that I am asked to make for my family and friends. If I say that I’m making “pepper sauce,” a stray adult child or two will show up at dinnertime. And they fight over leftovers.
I seem to make this sauce mostly in the summer, when colorful bell peppers are bountiful. I use as many colorful peppers as possible, as I believe each color adds something to the taste of the sauce. I also prefer to roast the peppers on the outdoor grill, but they can be roasted in the oven as well.
RECIPE: for 1 pound of pasta
6 very large or 8 medium sized sweet bell peppers of different colors
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 teaspoon of hot red pepper flakes (optional)
1 pound rigatoni of other dried tubular pasta
1. Roast the peppers either on a gas grill or in the oven.
Roast on medium heat, turning often, until peppers are soft and charred on all sides. They should collapse.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Lay peppers on their sides on the foil. Put in oven, turning peppers every 15 minutes until peppers are charred and soft. They should collapse.
2. Wrap each pepper individually in a paper towel while still hot. Let peppers cool like this until slightly warm (even cool is fine) to the touch. This helps loosen the skin.
3. Remove the skins and seeds from each pepper. Cut the peppers in 1 to 2 inch strips (no need to be exact).
4. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the peppers and sauté for 2 minutes. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes (if desired). Mix very well, cover and let cook over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring often.
5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta and add to the peppers, which should be very creamy by now. Mix very well.
6. Serve with freshly grated Pecorino or Parmigiano cheese.