Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Glorious Pasta of Italy: Penne with Roasted Red Peppers and Cream

Glorious. So glorious. One of my favorite things about being a food blogger is having the opportunity to review incredible cookbooks and products and share my thoughts with my fabulous readers. I recently received a beautiful copy of Domenica Marchetti's newest cookbook, The Glorious Pasta of Italy. I already own one of her previous books, The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy, so I was especially excited to see what Domenica had created with one of my favorite ingredients in the world: pasta.

The array of pasta recipes in this book is comforting for any carboholic. Its pages contain the makings of a carb-induced Heaven (the best kind). I have a reputation for making my own pasta whenever possible (I also make my own pizza dough and pastry dough 100% of the time, and have even dabbled in cheese). If I have the time to do it, I'm thrilled to break out my pasta roller and get to work, but God only knows that doesn't happen on a regular basis. With this book it doesn't have to! Fresh and dried pasta finds equal love.

When I searched through the pages of this beautifully photographed book, nearly every recipe caught my eye. Number one on my list was the whole-wheat fettuccine with savoy cabbage, cream, and caraway seeds. It did occur to me, however, that it is incredibly hot and humid in the Northeast, and thus maybe a less labor intensive (and wintery) recipe would be more appropriate. I still have every intention of whipping that fettuccine together the second the weather turns dismally chilly... I promise you that :)

As I have been in the midst of a move, and am a bit shorter on kitchen time, I thought one of the recipes from the "Pasta on the Run" chapter would be perfect (other chapters include Pasta Essentials, Pasta in Soup, Pasta with Sauce, Baked Pasta Dishes, Stuffed Pasta and Dumplings, Classics Worth Keeping, Showstoppers, and Sweet Pasta). I settled on the penne with roasted red peppers and cream (and trust me I wasn't "settling"). It was so easy and fast to put together, exactly what I needed on a busy day.

I cut back a bit on both the olive oil and cream, and bumped up the balsamic vinegar purely by accident. When I glanced at the book I thought it said 2 tablespoons instead of teaspoons, but I can honestly say that I will keep it at 2 tablespoons in the future. It really added such a great punch of  flavor! I also didn't mix the cheese into the pasta because my mom doesn't like Parmesan cheese (*gasp, how are we related?*), so the cheese-lovers of the family just added the cheese at the table. No complaints :) I look forward to trying out many more recipes from this book, and highly recommend it to all my carboholic readers!

Penne with Roasted Red Peppers and Cream
Serves 4
(Adapted from The Glorious Pasta of Italy)

3 T. extra-virgin olive oil (I used a bit less)
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 (12 oz) jar roasted red peppers, well drained and coarsely chopped
Kosher salt
2 T. balsamic vinegar (originally called for 2 tsp.)
1 T. tomato paste
1 cup heavy cream (I used a bit less)
1 lb dried penne
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously.

While the water is heating, warm the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and saute for 7 to 8 minutes or until softened and translucent. Add the peppers and season with salt. Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they are heated through. Raise the heat to medium-high and stir in the vinegar. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool for 5 minutes.

Transfer the pepper mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Return the puree to the pan and place over low heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the tomato paste and cream. Whisk this mixture into the sauce and stir until it is nicely thickened and hot. Taste and season with more salt if necessary. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.

Add the pasta to the boiling water, stir to separate, and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander (reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water).

Transfer the pasta to the frying pan and gently toss the pasta and sauce to combine thoroughly. Stir in half of the cheese and toss again, adding a splash or two of the cooking water if necessary to loosen the sauce. Transfer the dressed pasta to warmed shallow individual bowls and sprinkle with the remaining cheese (we opted to not mix the cheese in at all, and just served cheese on the side). Serve immediately.

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free copy of the book. My opinions are always my own.


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