Every Saturday morning, from April through December, whether in Seattle or Portland, I head to one of the many inspiring Northwest farmers markets. You might think I would become jaded after awhile, but it hasn’t happened.
Every week, I’m blown away by the gorgeous, tantalizing offerings, and every week I buy way more than I can cook over the weekend. I do this even though there is this strange man following me around, intermittently interjecting, “Enough already! You can’t cook all that.” I pretend to have no idea who he is, but of course it’s that rascal, MauiJim.
Well, this past Saturday was no exception. The sweet bell peppers were calling my name. Portland Farmers Market was overflowing with every color and every shape of pepper imaginable. The purple bell peppers were especially appealing.
I couldn’t resist, recalling an article I wrote for Cooking Light magazine some years ago that included 5-6 dishes starring sweet bell peppers. One dish in particular has been begging for a remake. And yes, it’s Mostaccioli with Sweet Rainbow Peppers. The tomato, fennel, and onion sauce is loaded with roasted peppers and quite unlike any pasta dish I have ever experienced: light, sweet, smoky, and meaty all at the same time.
I think you’re going to love it. Plus it’s a great way to use all those peppers you purchased at the market.
If you need a refresher on roasting bell peppers, check out Roasting Peppers Step-By-Step before making this dish.
Mostaccioli with Rainbow Peppers
Here is a colorful and satisfying pasta dish, perfect on its own or accompanied by the best local sausages you can find. I love the French sausages produced by Laurelhurst Market in Portland, Oregon. The spicing reminds me of country-style pate and is very nice with the clean, sweet flavor of the peppers and the tomato fennel sauce.
2 medium green bell peppers, roasted, peeled, cored, and seeded
2 medium red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, cored, and seeded
2 medium yellow bell peppers, roasted, peeled, cored, and seeded
3 tablespoons cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped onion (1 medium-sized onion)
1 cup chopped fennel bulb (½ large fennel bulb)
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2-3 cloves garlic)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
6 cups fresh, peeled, chopped vine ripened tomatoes with juice (about 4 pounds whole tomatoes; or three 14½ ounce cans chopped tomatoes)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound dried mostaccioli, penne, ziti, or rigatoni pasta
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup fresh basil leaves, cut lengthwise into thin strips
- Cut the roasted peppers into ¼-inch wide by 1½-inch strips. Reserve.
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet and sweat the onions and fennel bulb, covered, over low heat until softened but not browned.
- Add the garlic, fennel seed, and optional red pepper flakes; continue cooking for an additional minute or so.
- Add the tomatoes and simmer slowly for about 15-20 minutes, until sauce has thickened somewhat and only a little liquid remains.
- Taste the sauce and add the salt and pepper, adjusting the seasoning level to your taste.
- Add the bell peppers, warm through, and again adjust the seasonings. Do not be tempted to adjust the acidity of the Tomato sauce with a little sugar or honey as is customary. The roasted peppers are quite sweet and need a counterbalance of acidity.
- While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta. Boil, uncovered, for about 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender but still somewhat firm.
- Combine the drained pasta, sauce, and basil in a large pasta serving bowl and toss well to combine.
- Sprinkle the Parmesan over the pasta and serve immediately.