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Capsicum (peppers) and pasta

"The most suitable type is the variety you have, and the right quantity of it: quanto basta (or how much is enough), which is both a question and an assumption that you already know." Rachel Roddy

On the left - what I was aiming for with last night's dinner. On the right, what I actually achieved. Of course, it doesn't look nearly as good, although in my defence I will say, that although it did not look as red/orange as the professional one, it certainly looked a much brighter colour than it does in this photograph. Blame it on the camera (and the photographer). However, it did taste pretty good - a minor success with a score of 3 1/2 stars from David, so I'm going to ramble around how I arrived at this particular choice for my 'new' recipe of the week and the other things I learnt along the way.

The dish is Tagliatelle with charred red pepper sauce and salsa verde from Ixta Belfrage, although it doesn't appear in either of her two books - Flavour and Mezcla although The Guardian article where I found it seems to imply that it is in Mezcla. So a bonus recipe I guess.

This is the dish that I initially thought I would make - Pasta with red pepper and ricotta from Rachel Roddy. Why? Well it was in a recent Guardian newsletter and it appealed to me because in my fridge I had red peppers, and also some ricotta to use up. And ricotta really has to be used quickly. Her dish used hot peppers - peperoncini - but I was absolutely sure that any red pepper would do. As she says in her intro - "the most suitable type is the variety you have."

However, I had a vague memory of an Ixta Belfrage dish with red peppers and pasta - or was it Ottolenghi? Not Ottolenghi it turns out - there was only this from him - Giant couscous cake with roasted pepper sauce - a sauce that you could use for any number of things but was not in this instance for pasta.

And herewith a slight digression just to say that there are numerous red pepper sauces from all over the world, including Peperonata from Italy - basically peppers and tomatoes I think, and used here as a sauce by Jamie in his Pasta peperonata. And let's face it I was just looking to use up the peppers so they didn't have to be in a sauce-like form. It's just that the recipe I started with was a sauce kind of dish, and so I just followed the trail. They could just be roasted, fried, or whatever, and tossed with anything else. Indeed at one point I was just going to make up something on my own with pasta, peppers, and other stuff in the fridge - broccolini, tomatoes, leeks, ham ... But no, I needed an actual 'new recipe. So I continued my search. Just to make sure.

Which is when I found the chosen dish. It was irresistibly interesting to me because the sauce included all sorts of slightly strange things, like miso, onion granules, grated nutmeg. How would that turn out I wondered, and besides I wanted to experiment a bit more with miso. Another ingredient sitting in my fridge to be used up. But there wasn't any ricotta and it would be really good to use that up. So I set it aside in my head for a moment whilst I searched some more.

And indeed in her book Mezcla there is one more Charred red pepper sauce with omelette noodles, the recipe for which is on a website called Food Gai. Now I am definitely going to try this sometime, but it's not really pasta - it's a very thin omelette, cut into strips to form a kind of noodle. Just a tiny bit more complicated than I was aiming for on this particular day. I thought there was also Pappardelle with chipotle pancetta sauce - alas the recipe is not online yet - but that is actually a tomato sauce, with some chilli flakes in it. My red peppers were superfluous to this one.

I had fun browsing some more - this morning. I didn't do much looking yesterday having come down to a fight between Ixta Belfrage and Rachel Roddy, deciding in the end that the ricotta could be part of a quiche for Friday night quiche, and that Ixta's recipe was just that much more interesting. This morning, however, I thought I should check to see if there was anything even better. Well, no I don't think there is. And I've checked all my Italian cookbooks too. Yes there are very, very tasty looking options and all worth trying, but honestly, I think Ixta wins.

So next time you are looking to use up some peppers and feel Italian that night and not feeling quite adventurous enough to include miso in your sauce, check out these options. Pasta with pepper relish from Delia; Parma ham and red pepper with taglierini from Jamie's friend Gennaro; Fusilli with pepper and olive sauce - Rachel Roddy again - and lots of anchovies in this one; Pasta with pancetta, parsley and peppers from Nigella; Pasta with roast capsicum and breadcrumbs from delicious.; and Sweet potato gnocchi with roasted capsicum and Gorgonzola sauce from Katie Quinn-Davies, on the delicious. website. Lots of ideas to latch on to next time you are looking in your fridge and wondering what to cook for dinner.

Try the one we chose though. It was another of those dishes where all the ingredients combine together to produce a subtly different taste, in which no one ingredient dominates. I also forgot to mention the salsa verde which was just the right thing, although I think I put a bit too much parsley in it. So clever. It was nice with Parmesan on top too, so I was pleased to see that Ixta Belfrage herself says:

"Only on very rare occasions willl I hold back from covering a plate of pasta with Parmesan. Even when it comes to seafood pasta, I cannot and do not resist."


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