Sunday, 16 June 2013

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Sauce



I experimented with an idea I had for a bolognaise style pasta sauce with a roasted red pepper purée instead of a stewed tomato sauce. The end result was beautiful. Not only was it an outstanding colour but the flavours were spot on. The roasted peppers and red onion brought out an incredible sweetness. I added chopped, fresh sage which brought a slight, earthy bitterness to the profile. I added about a tablespoon of tomato paste and a splash of cream for a little acidity and richness. I spiked it with a pinch of dried chili flakes for a touch of heat. I'm happy to say that all the different components balanced out stunningly and made for a bad ass sauce.

This would have been a great vegetarian pasta sauce, although I used sausage in this technique. I went to my butcher to see what kind of sausages they had today and one that stood out to me was a pork belly and red wine sausage. I got three of those and removed them from the casings. In a skillet over medium-high heat I added a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and crumbled in the sausage meat. I browned the meat until just cooked and then tilted the pan so most of the fat would run to one side. Using a pair of tongs and a wad of paper towel to soak up the excess fat, leaving just over a tablespoon of oil. Then I added about a third of a red onion, finely diced, and cooked until they were translucent (a couple of minutes). Then I added a whole clove of garlic, finely minced, and cooked for an additional two minutes or so.

Next I threw in the roasted red pepper purée. I had a jar of them from a homemade pizza night I had with some friends a few weeks ago. My intention was just to use them up and ended up with this great sauce that I had to share. If you have the time, roasting your own red peppers will be much better. Using jarred peppers are a great cheat. All I did was added the peppers and the oil into a blender with a little salt and pepper and blitzed into a smooth, bright red purée. That went into the frying sausage along with the tomato paste. I turned the heat down to medium and stirred everything around. There was only just shy of a cup of the purée so it instantly started to reduce and coat the sausage more like a thick gravy more than a luxurious sauce. Little by little, I added a bit of starchy pasta water from the boiling penne. This thinned out the sauce and stretched it out a bit. I added a pinch of chili flakes and a small bunch of fresh sage that I had wadded and chopped with a knife (6 or 7 leaves). Then I added a splash of cream, stirred it in, and a generous amount of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

When the penne was perfect and all dente I drained it and added them to my sauce. As soon as it was well combined it was ready to serve. This was a successful little experiment that I recommend you try. Experimenting with an idea you have in the kitchen is always a good thing. If you think that something is going to be good, why not try it. You may perfect something good enough to make again and again. I will definitely be trying this again. Not only was it delicious, but the colour was outstanding. It's the kind of intense orange you would expect from a crayon. It would be the perfect sight for your guests at a simple dinner party. 

Stay tuned for more posts as we move forward into summer and take advantage of all various fresh produce that will come into season over the next few months. 

Have a great week, everyone!

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