Tomatoes aren’t the only sweet red fruit that make great pasta sauce. Red bell peppers are excellent too, especially paired with the faint licorice flavour of fennel seeds.
Yield: 4 servings
4 red bell peppers, halved, seeded and roughly chopped
2 large onions, roughly chopped
1 whole head garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
a sprinkle or two sea salt and freshly grated pepper
a 1 pound box penne pasta
few handfuls baby spinach
Preheat oven to 350 °F.
Toss the peppers, onion, garlic, olive oil, fennel seed and salt and pepper together in a large bowl until thoroughly coated. Pour into a 9- x 13-inch (3.5 L) baking pan. Roast until peppers are softened and caramelized, about 1 hour.
Transfer the roasted vegetables into a medium saucepan and purée with an immersion blender, adding a splash of water to help it along. Alternatively, put into a food processor or blender and purée until smooth. Taste and add more salt and pepper to taste.
Just prior to serving, reheat the sauce in a large pot.
Cook the pasta in lots of boiling salted water. Toss the hot pasta with the reheated red pepper sauce and the baby spinach and serve immediately.
You may use any of your favourite pastas for this dish. As you reheat the sauce, add in chopped fresh oregano or thyme.
This is one of the great beef stews of the world. It's a uniquely Hungarian dish that's half way between a soup and a stew. While in Hungary, I learned a couple of things. First, that every cook has a different version of this recipe and second, that everyone believes their version is the most authentic. So to me, that means all versions are authentic as long as they contain Hungarian flavours.
This recipe is dedicated to the memory of Ann Szemba, my Hungarian friend who traveled with me to Hungary and taught me this dish.