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.
A recipe is merely words on paper; a guideline, a starting point from which to improvise. It cannot pretend to replace the practiced hand and telling glance of a watchful cook. For that reason feel free to stir your own ideas into this dish. When you cook it once, it becomes yours, so personalize it a bit. Add more of an ingredient you like or less of something you don’t like. Try substituting one ingredient for another. Remember words have no flavour, you have to add your own!
In the Maritimes we don’t worry whether our chowders are authentic or not. We know a true clam chowder is just a bowl full of simple, hearty flavours. We often use canned clams and always stir in onions, potatoes and milk. We’re too busy asking for seconds to worry whether we got it right!