Just when I thought I had tried every possible combination of pasta, I come across some new and delicious variation. This recipe, which can be found in Zarela's Veracruz, gets its green color not from some kind of pesto, but from poblano chiles. Though the Mexican variation might seem strange at first, I was surprised on recent trip through Mexico City and Oaxaca to find pasta dishes with such interesting sauces on so many of the menus.
The slightly spicy chiles are tempered somewhat by Mexican crema (you could also use heavy cream) and by some butter. Instead of a final flourish of Parmesan cheese, Manchego cheese is used, adding a surprising complexity to each bite. I wasn't expecting it, but this is one of the best pasta dishes I've made recently.
- 2 large poblano chiles
- 6 sprigs cilantro, leaves only
- 1 small white onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 2 tablespoons salt, divided
- ½ pound spaghetti
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup Mexican crema, or heavy cream
- 4 ounces Manchego cheese, shredded
Turn the broiler to high. Set poblano chiles on a baking sheet covered in foil, and then place the sheet underneath the broiler. Cook, flipping the chiles occasionally with a pair of tongs, until blackened on all sides. Turn off the broiler, and transfer chiles to a plastic bag. Let steam for five to ten minutes. Peel the blackened skins off the chiles, and then remove stems and seeds. Chop the chiles and then place in a blender along with the cilantro, onion, and garlic. Puree mixture until smooth.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 5 teaspoons of the salt. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. When done, drain pasta in a colander.
Meanwhile, add butter to a large saucepan set over medium heat. When it foams, pour in the chile mixture. Cook, partially covered, for about 10 minutes. Stir it occasionally. Add the crema and 1 teaspoon of salt.
Add the pasta to the saucepan and toss well. Divide the pasta between four plates. Top each with a sprinkling of the Manchego cheese.