I'm always experimenting with new ideas when it comes to tomato-based pasta sauce, a seemingly inexhaustible genre of cooking. When summer is at its peak, I love to make this no-cook marinated sauce, basically a bruschetta topping tossed with noodles instead of spooned onto bread. Then I turn to canned tomatoes when summer is over, trying new ideas like a roasted fennel sauce or adding a pinch of saffron.
Now is a time when fresh tomatoes are at the market, but they're not necessarily at their peak. What's one great thing to do with not-quite-perfect vegetables? Roast them. It dismisses any problems with mealy texture and amps up the sweetness.
This recipe for spicy roasted tomato and pepper sauce, from a book called Verdura by Viana la Place, roasts peppers and tomatoes side-by-side, which creates a sauce of smoky sweetness, enhanced by a pinch of hot red pepper flakes. As is my little secret, I added a tablespoon of butter, which works wonders for tomato sauces. A wonderful late-summer/early-fall dish, for days when there is a slight crispness to the air.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes
- 2 bell peppers, 1 red and 1 yellow
- 1 pound curly shaped pasta, such as rotini or fusilli
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Parmesan to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
Roast the tomatoes and peppers under an oven's broiler, turning occasionally, until the tomato skin soften and the pepper skin blackens. The tomatoes should take about 5 minutes, the peppers closer to 10. Slip the skins off the tomatoes, seed them, and coarsely chop the flesh. Allow the peppers to cool and peel off the skin, then core and cut into matchsticks.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a medium skillet, and cook the garlic and chili flakes over medium-low heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato flesh and season with salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium and cook until the sauce thickens, then blend or pass through a food mill.
Heat the remaining oil in a second skillet and add the peppers, allowing their smoky flavor to penetrate the oil, about 2-3 minutes over medium heat. Add the peppers and oil to the tomato sauce, and bring to a low simmer.
In the meantime, bring a pot of salty water to boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, reserving some pasta water. Toss with the sauce along with the butter, adding pasta water if the pasta is too dry.
Serve with Parmesan cheese.