Is there a pepper lover among us who doesn’t swoon at the thought of a darkly roasted red bell: velvety, caramelized and dripping with juice?
Whether curled over crostini or draped onto some kind of tangy cheese, roasted peppers are the most crowd-pleasing way to enjoy the sweet summer vegetable (which, like a tomato, is botanically a fruit).
This savory pasta offers all the joys of roasted peppers without having to roast and peel them, or to rely on slightly acrid jarred versions.
Instead, slivers of fresh bell peppers (preferably with a mix of colors) are sautéed with whole garlic cloves until everything turns golden brown. This initial searing brings out their sweetness and softens them — to a point. The key to a truly plush texture happens when you deglaze the hot pan with a splash of liquid.
During deglazing, the tasty browned bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet dissolve, adding layers of flavor to the piquant, complex sauce. But in this recipe, there’s a bonus: The steaming liquid will also break down any trace of spine the peppers might have maintained, leaving them perfectly floppy and gorgeously silky.
Because I like to sip wine when I cook, spilling some into the pan is my lazy person’s method of deglazing. But you don’t need to open a bottle just for this dish. Water, broth, beer, dry sherry, or even the gin and vermouth of your martini (if you can spare it) will work just as well, giving it a very slight nuance.
Really, you’ll barely taste it, because most of the sauce’s character comes from those burnished peppers and garlic cloves, zipped up with a little rosemary and red-pepper flakes, and deepened with loads of anchovies. (Yes, you can skip the anchovies, but compensate with some soy sauce.)
A dollop of fresh ricotta just before serving brings the elements together, lending creamy richness to contrast with the mound of torn fresh herbs and crisp scallions that make up the garnish. Don’t skimp on those scallions. Other than the snap of al dente pasta, the scallions will be the only textural contrast in the bowl. But they are enough — all the dish needs to bring the suppleness of sweet peppers to the fore.