Sunday, December 06, 2009

Roasted Pepper Saffron Pasta Sauce

I made some roasted peppers and saffron pasta sauce. Sweet yellow bells and a few bright sweet red bells. I amped up the garlic and added a large shallot. I can show you the golden roasted peppers before blending, and the glittering golden sauce they made, but I can only describe the smell. There’s something about roasting vegetable in the oven on a dingy chilly day. As the fragrance builds, I acquire this sort of olfactory superpower and feel the spicy sweet fragrances through my skin. Well, maybe not quite so ethereal, but certainly mouth-watering.

The basic recipe is by Andrea Chesman, from “The Roasted Vegetable.” (My modifications are in parentheses.) I would call it Saffron Roasted Pepper Pasta Sauce, but she calls it:

Saffron Pasta with Roasted Peppers
(serves 4 – 6)

4 yellow bell peppers
2 red bell peppers
(2 stunted but lovely sweet purple peppers from the Veggie Garden)
2 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole (WTF? Clearly more garlic is required) (6 fat cloves, sliced into chips)
(1 large shallot, sliced and separated into rings)
(1 T olive oil, in which to soak the shallot and garlic and add to the red pepper roasting pan for the final 10 minutes of red pepper roasting.)
1 cup high-quality neutral-tasting chicken or vegetable broth (I used organic chicken)
Generous pinch of saffron threads, crumbled (I used more than J would have)
1 cup half-and-half
1 pound linguine or rotini (I used egg noodles)
¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves (I cut red basil and Thai basil in chiffonade)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few springs fresh basil, for garnish (All I had was lovely purple Thai basil which added to the bright color of this amazing sauce)

1. Preheat the broiler. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet (I had only a 4-pepper sized ceramic dish that would fit, so I did the yellows first, then the red together with the garlic and onion)
2. Place the bell peppers on the baking sheet and space between them. Broil 4 inches from the heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until charred all over, turning several times. (I did 5 minutes on each of 4 sides, turning in between. This is where the smell first gets you.)

3. Place the (broiled) peppers in a covered bowl, plastic bag (yuck), or paper bag. Seal and let steam for about 10 minutes to loosen the skins.
4. Cut slits in the peppers and drain briefly into a small bowl to catch any juices. Scrape or peel the skins and discard. Scrape and discard the seeds and membranes.
5. Chop the yellow peppers. Combine them in a food processor or blender with the garlic and pepper juices. Process until finely chopped. Add the broth and wine and process to make a smooth puree. Transfer to a saucepan and add the saffron and the half-and-half. Heat gently over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
6. Cut the red peppers into thin, 1 ½-inch-long strips.
7. Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain well.

8. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl. Add the saffron sauce, red pepper strips, and chopped basil. Toss to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve at once, garnished with the basil sprigs.

Next time, I plan to try to can the sauce (excluding the half-and-half) but including the chopped red peppers and garlic/shallot mix. That way, when I open the canned sauce later, all I will have to do is heat and add the half-and-half and some fresh basil, and make my own egg noodles.