Rosemary Infused Peperonata Over Pasta

A few seasons ago, I discovered the delicious simplicity of peperonata. It's a rustic dish of stewed peppers, garlic, onions, and tomatoes that I came across in Cook's Illustrated's Italian Classics. Any recipe that packs a ton of flavor with just a handful of ingredients wins a permanent spot in my cooking routine. And what's not to love? Peperonata can be served on pasta, bruschetta, any kind of protein, a sandwich, straight from the jar on a fork, and it freezes beautifully. If you're a pepper lover this dish is for you.

At last Wednesday's market, the Peacock Family Farms display was overflowing with a rainbow of peppers (pictured below). It was about time for peperonata to make an appearance at a weekend dinner, so I filled up my bags with just about every color and almost made off with their Harvest basket. A hoarder's life for me. As I'm writing this, I can smell the rosemary, garlic, and peppers having a party on the stove. Yu-um.

Recipe

The flavor development of this dish benefits from some time in the fridge so I recommend making it a day ahead.

Tools

Ingredients (Makes approximately 3 heaping cups - Adapted from Cook's Illustrated)

  • 1 pound thin spaghetti
  • 2 small/medium onions, sliced thin or about 1/4 inch (you should end up with 2 cups)
  • 2 pounds sweet peppers, seeds and ribs removed, sliced in half vertically Note: I used red and orange peppers for some visual diversity. You can use all red, but skip green.
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, cored and diced (you should end up with about 18-20 oz after prepping)
  • 1/4 cup quality olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes Note: This adds a very mild undertone of heat. If you want to turn it up you can add a smidge more, but I recommend adjusting slowly. I saw a recipe that mashed together garlic, salt, and jalapeno which could be another great idea for heat.
  • 5 inch sprig of rosemary + little sprigs for plating
  • 2 teaspoons pomegranate or red wine vinegar
  • Kosher or flake-style salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Freshly grated Parmesan for serving

Instructions

Stewing

  • Turn the broiler on high and adjust your oven rack to the highest position where you can still fit a pan. Char the peppers, then bundle them up in the foil and seal everything in a Ziplock bag. After the peppers sweat for about 15 minutes, the skins should come right off. Note: Don't worry about getting every bit of skin off. After the dish stews, any stray pieces of pepper skin will separate and curl up. They're easy to spot and remove.
  • Once the skins are removed, slice the peppers lengthwise into 1/4 inch pieces.
  • Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or similar pot.
  • Add the onions, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper, and then saut√© until translucent and just starting to brown around the edges (about 6-8 minutes). Stir occasionally.
  • Add the tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper, then simmer for 10 minutes until the tomatoes start to break down. Cover the pot after a few minutes so you don't reduce the juices.
  • Add the peppers, crushed pepper flakes, garlic, rosemary sprig, and stir to combine.
  • Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  • Test the peppers. They should be tender but not completely lacking in structure. If they're not yet tender, cover and continue to simmer for 10-15 more minutes.
  • Once the peppers are tender, remove lid, discard the rosemary, and then increase the heat to medium. Simmer uncovered for another 10-ish minutes until the liquid is slightly reduced and thickened. Note: Sometimes I don't reduce at all if the tomatoes aren't particularly juicy. When using peperonata for pasta, you want the "sauce" to be a little looser so that it can be cooked with the pasta. For bruschetta and similar applications, a thicker sauce is better.
  • Off the heat, add the vinegar and then any additional salt and pepper to taste.
  • This is the point at which I recommend refrigerating the peperonata in an airtight container so that the flavors can meld overnight.

Serving

  • Cook your pasta just shy of al dente. Note: Using fresh pasta is a bonus with this dish since the fresh noodles will more readily absorb the sauce.
  • While the pasta is cooking, gently warm your peperonata in a large non-stick pan.
  • Transfer the pasta directly from the cooking water to the pan with the peperonata. Over medium to medium-high heat, toss the mixture until the pasta has finished cooking and the sauce has thickened slightly.
  • Top with freshly grated Parmesan and a rosemary sprig.

Storage

Peperonata can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2-3 days. If you've already mixed it with pasta, I recommend 1 to 2 days max since the quality of cooked pasta degrades pretty quickly. Peperonata also freezes beautifully.

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