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Recipe: Roasted Red Bell Pepper Spaghetti

By ZELDA PANDE
February 17, 2022 17:24 IST
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The bright orange-red of this pasta is distinctive -- its shade doesn't come from a standard tomatoey marinara sauce, but baked and grilled red capsicums lend it its colour.

The nutty capsicum sauce mixed with buttered spaghetti, served up with cheese, a dash of fresh green garlic and fresh basil, tastes awesome by itself. Or you can choose to add additional vegetables or sausages to Zelda Pande's Roasted Red Bell Pepper Spaghetti.

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Spaghetti
Photograph: Zelda Pande

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Spaghetti

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

  • 4 large red capsicums or bell peppers
  • 1 large red onion, peeled
  • 2 heads unpeeled garlic
  • 7-8 large pods garlic, peeled
  • 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 500 gm uncooked spaghetti
  • 1 tbsp butter + 1 tsp for sauteing pine nuts
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 4 tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 4 tbsp chopped green garlic, stalks or greens only
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp black pepper powder
  • 1 tsp or more chilly flakes

For serving

  • Drizzle of cream, optional
  • Grated fresh Parmesan or any other cheese 

Method

  • Chop the red bell peppers into large chunks and de-seed.
    Cut the onion into large chunks.
    Grease a tray lined with foil with a little olive oil.
    Place the garlic heads, garlic pods, bell pepper chunks, onion chunks on the tray.
    Drizzle olive oil on top of the vegetables and toss lightly so the pieces are coated.
    Bake for an hour at 170°C.
    Then grill for 15-20 minutes just till the vegetables become lightly charred on the exterior and take out of oven.
    Keep aside.
  • While the vegetables are grilling, boil the spaghetti in a large saucepan of water with 1 tsp of salt.
    Cook the spaghetti 1-2 minutes short of al dente (as per timing on the packet) or about 5 minutes ie take off when it is still a little raw because it will cook further in the sauce.
    Al dente means 'to the tooth' or pasta that has a bite to it and is not too soft.
    Drain but reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.
    Toss the spaghetti  with the butter.
    Keep aside.
  • Heat the baked and grilled onions, garlic pods, bell peppers in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or frying pan with a little more olive oil.
    Cut the tops off the grilled heads of garlic and squeeze the roasted garlic pulp out from the pods into the pan along with the other vegetables.
    Saute the vegetables for 3-4 minutes.
    Add the pasta water, milk.
    Grind the sauce with a hand blender (or in a mixer and return to the pan) and simmer 5 minutes more.
  • While the sauce is cooking, carefully saute the pine nuts in a small frying pan with the remaining 1 tsp butter, stirring frequently.
    When pinkish -- not brown -- and are dotted with pink spots, take off heat.
    Empty onto a plate and cool; if they remain in the hot frying pan they will continue to cook and can burn.
  • Grind the pine nuts with a little of the capsicum sauce and add the ground mixture to the frying pan.
    Add the chilly flakes, black pepper, salt.
    Add the semi-cooked spaghetti.
    Cook for 3-4 minutes more -- the spaghetti should still have a bite to it.
  • Before turning off heat, add the chopped basil, green garlic.
    Divide between 3-4 plates or pasta bowls.
    Drizzle on each plate of pasta a tbsp cream or less and sprinkle 1 tbsp grated cheese.

Note: Cashews may be substituted for pine nuts.

Additional vegetables of choice may be grilled along with red capsicum -- like chunks of half a zucchini, skin on, or 100 gm broccoli florets and/or 5-6 mushrooms. Also chunks of sausages may be roasted. Some 8-10 slices of black olives, or chopped fresh parsley may be added to sauce too. Soaked, softened, chopped pieces of 5-6 sun-dried tomatoes may be added to the sauce as well. While adding additional vegetables and/or sausages make sure the vegetable/sausages to pasta ratio is 1:2 (ie pasta quantity is double of the vegetables/sausages).

This recipe is eggless. Vegans can opt for almond milk instead of the milk used in the recipe; cashew butter [external link] for the butter, cashew cream [external link] for the cream or up the amount of pine nuts added to the recipe.

Vegan cheeses are available online. Or make vegan cheese at home using this recipe [external link].

There is nothing to compare to the taste of fresh basil in your kitchen. It's easy to grow. Buy the seeds online and grow it in a pot on your balcony or window sill.

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ZELDA PANDE