Certain foods have a very special meaning for me: it might be something my mom cooked when I was a kid that takes me back in time, something I cooked for someone I love or something I ate at a special place. I first ate pasta with pesto sauce in Rome, and it was also the first time I ever traveled abroad, many years ago, so it holds a very dear place in my heart.
I make pesto quite regularly at home, for my husband have learned to enjoy it as well, and sometimes I switch the basil for other options, such as arugula, for example. This time basil was replaced by a mixture of broccolini and fresh oregano leaves, with a fiery touch of dried pepper flakes and a bit of sweetness from roasted peppers – a wonderful combination of flavors is the work of the man behind the best gnocchi I have ever made. To make things ever better, this is really easy to put together, and you can even roast the peppers in advance and keep them refrigerated in a bowl or glass jar with some olive oil to avoid them from drying out.
Pasta with broccolini pesto and roasted peppers
slightly adapted from the always delicious Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food
2 small red peppers
olive oil to drizzle over the peppers
200g broccolini florets
½ cup (120ml) extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup pine nuts
1 fat garlic clove, minced
½ cup grated parmesan
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g long dried pasta – I used fusilli lunghi
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°C. Line a baking sheet with foil, brush it with olive oil and place the peppers onto the foil cut side down. Drizzle with olive oil and roast for 30 minutes or until skins are blistering. Remove peppers from baking sheet and place in a large bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes. Remove the skins from the peppers and cut them into thin slices. Set aside.
Pesto: bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil – you’ll cook the broccolini and the pasta using the same water. Blanch the broccolini the boiling water for about 30 seconds, then remove them using a slotted spoon and place in ice water to stop them from cooking (keep the water boiling too cook the pasta). Use your hands to squeeze out as much excess water from the broccolini as possible and transfer to a blender. Add the olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan, red pepper flakes, oregano and blitz to a paste. Season with salt and pepper and blitz again. Add 2-3 tablespoons of water if pesto is too thick.
Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Toss pasta with pesto, adding some of the water if necessary to loosen the sauce. Stir in the roasted pepper and serve at once.