I admit to a sentimental attachment to this recipe, which is an abbreviated and more healthful version of the first meal my husband ever cooked for me.
The main course was Pasta al Peperoni, a recipe he followed from Giuliano Bugialli's "Bugialli on Pasta" (Simon and Schuster, 1988). It's a very simple dish of peppers, roasted and then cooked slowly and tossed with pasta. It took him about three hours to make, which I think might have had a lot to do with his desire to prolong the evening and a little to do with the two-step process Bugialli recommended for cooking the peppers.
Lately, I've taken to roasting peppers on the gas grill. Not only does it char the skin, but the closed grill becomes a convection oven and really cooks the flesh of the pepper. It's the best method I've found, and it eliminates one of Bugialli's steps. To further enhance the peppers' sweetness, I toss the peeled, sliced strips with balsamic vinegar and a little oil and let them marinate for at least 2 hours (overnight is even better). Mixed with chopped fresh basil, the peppers make a perfect summer complement for pasta.
I can't promise a romantic outcome, but the recipe's a keeper.
Make Ahead: The just-roasted peppers need to rest for 20 to 30 minutes before using. The roasted peppers should be marinated in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or as long as 3 days.
- 3 or 4 large red bell peppers, or an assortment of orange, yellow and red peppers
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/8 teaspoon salt, plus more for the cooking water
- 8 ounces dried penne pasta
- 10 large basil leaves, chopped or cut into thin slices
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Prepare the grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to high (650 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them in the center of the cooking area. For a hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for about 2 or 3 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Lightly coat the grill rack with oil and place it on the grill.
Place the peppers on the grate, directly over the heat. Close the lid. Every 4 or 5 minutes, rotate the peppers so they char all the way around. The whole process will take 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the peppers to a large bowl, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes.
Working with one pepper at a time, peel/rinse away the charred skin, open the pepper and discard the core, membrane and seeds. Cut the flesh into 1- to 1 1/2-inch-long strips, about 1/4-inch wide. Repeat with the remaining peppers. Combine the pepper strips with the vinegar, oil and salt in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or as long as 3 days.
When ready to use, allow the peppers to come to room temperature. Cook the pasta according to package directions, then drain and toss with the peppers, basil and pepper to taste in a serving bowl. Serve with Parmesan cheese if desired.
From columnist Stephanie Witt Sedgwick.
Tested by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick.
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