For our honeymoon (many years ago) my husband Jack and I went on the trip of a lifetime! We went to the Tuscany region of Italy and spent the week at a wonderful Italian cooking school called Toscana Saporita.
After a very long flight from Boston, we arrived at the school just as a light afternoon meal was about to be served. The very first dish we tasted was this Pasta with Yellow Pepper Sauce – and one bite into it – Jack and I both knew that we had made the right choice in signing up for this culinary vacation!
This rich and creamy yellow pepper sauce is loaded with flavor. But you’ll be surprised that there is no cream in it – just a puree of yellow bell pepper, onions, leeks and olive oil that is simply flavored with salt, pepper, thyme and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
This pasta with yellow pepper sauce is so delicious that after his first bite back in Italy, Jack thought to himself, “If the rest of this vacation is terrible, it doesn’t matter because I got to taste THIS dish!”
Of course, the rest of the vacation was absolutely amazing – but almost eleven years later, this pasta with yellow sauce still stands out in both of our minds because it symbolized what we expected from a culinary vacation in Italy: fantastic, freshly-made Italian-style foods prepared by trained chefs who served us foods that we had never tried before.
This recipe was given to us by the cooking school. It is meant to be served as a beginner course to a meal, but it can be served as a side dish, or even as the main course for a meatless meal. Mangia!
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cups diced sweet onion, such as Vidalia
- 2 leeks, white part only cleaned of all sand and diced (about one cup)
- 4 extra-large yellow bell peppers, cleaned of all seeds and pulp sliced very thin (about 1 ½ pounds after cleaning)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme or half that of dried
- 1 pound Cellentani-shaped pasta, or any pasta that holds sauce well such as Fusilli
- 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to sprinkle over the finished dish
- In a large sauté pan or skillet with high sides, heat oil over medium to medium high heat and add onions and leeks. Cook stirring occasionally for eight minutes adjusting heat so that leeks don’t brown. Add peppers, salt, pepper and thyme and stir. Lower heat and cook covered for five minutes. Add ¼ cup of water and cook covered for five more minutes. Add another ¼ cup of water and cook covered for another five minutes. If peppers are soft, remove from heat or cook for five more minutes if needed until peppers are fully cooked.
- Using a blender or an immersion blender, puree mixture until very smooth. If too thick, add a little water. Pour back into pan and hold for next step.
- Cook pasta according to package directions until slightly less than done. (Reserve pasta water, do not drain).
- Place pasta in with sauce and cook over medium heat adding small ladles of pasta water until pasta is fully cooked and sauce is the proper constancy. Remove from heat and mix in Parmesan cheese.
- Serve with additional grated Parmesan cheese over each portion.
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