Recipe: Fusilli with Roasted Peppers, Honey, and Rosemary
Despite the beauty of yesterday’s snowstorm, I didn’t want to go out in it. I didn’t want to be cold. My apartment had been kind of cold the last few days, and I still felt chilled through, even though when the snow came the landlord finally decided to send up some heat. When darkness came, the view out my window onto 13th Street still showed pristine glistening snow with not a trace of city grime. I wanted to cook, but that would most likely involve shopping, which would mean going out. Lazy and withdrawn, and still cold was what I was. I wanted a glass of red wine. For the moment I just stared out the window at the now lightly falling snow and thought about what I could possibly cook with what I had on hand. So I turned to la dispensa, which is what Italians call their pantry.
I don’t generally stock many provisions; in fact, I don’t really have a dispensa, just a little section of restaurant shelving where I stick stuff that’s more or less food. I’m lucky if I have a bag of pasta. But wouldn’t you know it, I did have a pasta, and good pasta too, a bag of Setaro fusilli, flown all the way from sunny Napoli. I also had a half a bag of pistachios left over from my previous blog recipe.
I guess I consider anything I might have in my tiny refrigerator an extension of la dispensa, since I often store stuff in there not because it needs refrigeration but just to get it out of the way, things like calcium pills and sometimes even dishes. I did track down two very overripe red bell peppers. Winter peppers are actually better when they’re verging toward rot but not actually rotten. They’re sweeter, and if you then go ahead and char the hell out of them, which I wound up doing, you’ve really got something.
I had a few fresh rosemary sprigs and a jar of Sicilian honey from some long-ago trip. I found a great looking hunk of pecorino Toscano (I always have cheese, since that, along with red wine and pancetta, is the staff of life). All and all, these seemed meager provisions for a decent meal. A can of tomatoes would have been a nice addition, but I didn’t seem to have one (maybe there was one under the bed somewhere). So I lit a few candles, uncorked a bottle, and went back to starring out the window, until I came up with what I thought would make a suitable and possibly even a successful pasta dinner for Fred and me with the few items I had. What I decided was that the taste of roasted pepper would prevail, and I’d loosen up the sauce with a little white wine and some canned chicken broth (yuk), a touch of honey, and a touch of lemon. And it turned out good, very agro dolce, which was fortunate, since I figured it could qualify as one of my nuovo Siciliano creations, nuovo Sicilian being the direction my cooking is leaning toward these days. It just goes to show what you can accomplish in this big cold city without leaving your chilly apartment during a furious five-inch snowstorm.
Fusilli with Roasted Peppers, Honey, and Rosemary
2 ripe red bell peppers
½ pound fusilli
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, very thinly sliced
A few sprigs of rosemary, the leaves chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
A splash of dry white wine
1 teaspoon honey
The zest from 1 small lemon
About ½ cup chicken broth (canned is fine)
A handful of shelled whole pistachios
A handful of Italian parsley, the leaves left whole
A chunk of pecorino Toscano cheese
Place the peppers on a sheet pan, and broil them about 4 inches from the heat source, turning them a few times, until they’re blackened all over. Let them cool a bit, and then peel and seed them. Cut them into thin strips.
Put up a pot of pasta cooking water, and bring it to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt, and drop in the fusilli.
In a large skillet, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium flame. Add the garlic, and let it warm for a few seconds. Add the sliced peppers, and season them with a little salt. Sauté until the peppers are tender and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the rosemary and a few grindings of black pepper, and sauté a few moments longer, just to release the herb’s fragrance. Add the white wine, and let it bubble for a few seconds. Add the honey, the lemon zest, and the chicken broth, and simmer at a lively bubble to reduce the liquid slightly, about 3 minutes or so. Add the pistachios.
When al dente, drain the fusilli, and add it to the skillet. Toss well, adding a bit more chicken broth if the dish seems dry. Transfer the pasta to a warmed serving bowl. Add the parsley leaves, and grate on about a tablespoon of the pecorino Toscano. Add a drizzle of fresh olive oil, and toss gently. Serve right away, with extra pecorino if you like.