Sunday, June 20, 2010

Rotini with Red Pepper Ragu

No this is not something that you can pick up at the store next to the Prego.  Ragu, more than just a brand name, actually refers to an hearty Italian meat sauce that comes from northern Italy's Bologna region. 

My first memorable exprerience with roasted red peppers came when a friend and fellow foody brought me a wedge of great quiche with the most awesome romesco ever.  I have been a fool for red peppers ever since and they were my muse for this creation.  The roasted red peppers make the sauce earthy and delicious.  This is high-octane Italian flavor.  A Maserati for your mouth.  A Ferrari for your fork.  A Fiat for . . . just kidding. No Fiat comparison here.  This is good stuff.    

2 medium-large red bell peppers
1 quart canned tomatoes
1 lb. turkey burger, ground beef or Italian sausage (your preference).
5 cloves garlic, divided
¼ tsp. cayenne
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
4 oz. Parmesan cheese
Extra-virgin olive oil
5-6 leaves of fresh sweet basil

The Method
Roast peppers over direct high heat on a grill or over a gas burner until skin is charred. Remove from heat and place in paper bag for 10 minutes. Remove from bag and scrape off skin. Cut each pepper into halves and remove the pith and seeds. After draining the tomatoes, add to food processor with peppers, 3 cloves of garlic, and lemon juice and process for 30 seconds.

Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil to large saucepan over medium heat. Add meat and cook until lightly browned. Finely mince two remaining cloves of garlic and add to pan and continue to cook for one additional minute. If using ground beef or sausage, drain excess fat from pan prior to adding vegetable mixture. Add sauce and reduce heat to low. While sauce simmers, add cayenne, 1 tsp. salt and ½ tsp. of black pepper.

In a medium sized stockpot, bring water to boil over high heat and add 1 tsp. olive oil and 1 tsp. salt. Add rotini noodles and reduce to medium-high heat, maintaining boil for 3-5 minutes.

When noodles are done (but not mushy), remove from heat and drain into colander. Rinse briefly with cold water.

Grate Parmesan.  Tightly roll basil leaves together and chop into ribbons.    Plate noodles and top with a healthy dose of sauce. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan and basil. Salt and pepper to taste and try not to be too sad that you didn’t make more. Serves 4-6.

Food for Thought
You could finish an old boot or a can of Spaghetti-Os (please wait until the present food-safety issues and recall hoopla have been settled – if you buy them again at all!) with olive oil, fresh Parmesan and fresh basil and it would taste great. So put it on good food and Wowza!

A brief cold-water rinse in a colander helps to arrest the cooking process in your noodles without chilling them out too much. There are few things less appetizing than overcooked pasta – oil, cheese and herb garnish notwithstanding.

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