I’ve become a bit of a “Mamma Agata Groupie!” I just can’t stop making (and sharing with you) the fabulous dishes that we made in our cooking class with her. Since it’s summertime here, I can get fresh, farm produce and am able to almost duplicate the delicate flavors that are characteristic of her cooking. When we were preparing this dish with her in her kitchen, I was surprised to learn that she was sautéing the sliced peppers in peanut oil. We’re in Italy. Why aren’t we using olive oil? According to Mamma Agata (and I’m a believer/groupie), the peanut oil makes the peppers easier to digest and brings out their flavor. Who knew? But now we do know, so this is what I used, and I think you should give it a try also.
You also will need to have a basic tomato sauce on hand for this recipe. My “marinara sauce” (look through my pasta recipes) will do just fine, but I decided to follow this 100%, so I made her recipe for tomato sauce, which is also quite simple. I will include it here. I also used Mamma Agata’s own brand of pappardelle pasta. I was there, bought it and had it shipped to the USA, and it is sold on her web-site, but this is totally unnecessary. You can find pappardelle everywhere nowadays. Just an aside….if you ever see pasta made in Gragnano, buy it! This is a small hilltop town, above the Amalfi Coast, very close to Ravello, where they make pasta. This area is famous for their dried pasta. I actually found it in a supermarket in New Jersey (Kings), and my sister found it in Manhattan (Eataly). It’s soo good! It must be something in this region’s wheat/semolina that makes these dried pastas extra delicious.
Please don’t be scared off by the length of this recipe. It’s very easy. You can even make the tomato sauce (mine or hers) several days in advance. The peppers can also be sautéed, and left to drain, well in advance.
RECIPE for Mamma Agata’s Tomato Sauce:
1 quart of vine-ripened roma tomatoes, pureed (you can find this now in jars in all supermarkets…or use canned)
10 fresh cherry tomatoes
5 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
3 (or more) basil leaves
1. Add the olive oil, garlic and basil to the saucepan.
2. Heat the ingredients over a high flame for a minute or two, being careful not to burn the garlic.
3. Add the tomato puree and cherry tomatoes to the pan. Stir.
4. Cook the sauce, first over a high flame until the sauce begins to boil. Then, lower the flame to simmer the sauce for a total of 30 minutes ( including the time it took to bring it to a boil).
RECIPE: serves 4
1/2 pound of pappardelle
2 1/4 pounds of sweet red and yellow bell peppers
3 1/2 TBSP butter
4 TBSP olive oil
1/2 small red or white onion, chopped
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
2 1/4 pounds of cherry tomatoes
5 fresh basil leaves, torn
1 cup tomato sauce
1. Prepare the tomato sauce, if you have not already done so.
2. Wash the peppers and remove the stems. Cut each pepper in half and remove and discard the seeds from the inside of the peppers. Slice the peppers lengthwise, but not too thin or too thick. (take a look at my pictures)
3. Saute the peppers in the peanut oil for ten to fifteen minutes, until soft.
4. Once the peppers are cooked, place them on a paper towel to soak up the excess oil.
5. In a separate pan, melt the butter and olive oil over low heat.
6. Add the chopped onion and cook until golden brown.
7. Add the sausage to the pan and sear on all sides. Cover the pan and cook for an additional two minutes.
8. Uncover the pan and pierce the sausage with a fork several times on both sides, to allow the juice to flow in the pan and enhance the flavor of the pasta sauce.
9. Add the peppers to the pan with the sausage, stirring a bit to place the sausage on top of the peppers.
10. Add the chopped cherry tomatoes, freshly torn basil and one cup of the tomato sauce to the pan.
11. Cover the pan and cook on a low flame for thirty minutes.
12. Once cooked, remove the sausage and slice into small pieces, and then place back into the pan.
13. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain it and add it back into the sauce. Cook on low heat for two additional minutes.
14. Add a handful of grated Parmigiano cheese and serve immediately.