When my husband recently asked me to prepare Chicken Scarpariello, one of his favorite dishes (of which there seem to be hundreds), I agreed—but only if he could find a recipe in one of my cookbooks.
When it comes to cooking, I react to the word “vegetarian” as a vampire would to “garlic.” Fortunately, I just purchased Michele Scicolone’s The Italian Vegetable Cookbook
This richly illustrated volume has 200 recipes for a wide variety of dishes including antipasti, soups, pasta, main dishes, and even desserts. My only regret is that I didn’t have it for the summer months, when so many vegetables are widely available and at their best.
Scicolone is a prolific writer who has produced at least a dozen books on Italian cooking and has earned a well deserved reputation for recipes that work. This weekend I decided to make one of her main course dishes for some friends: Pasta-Stuffed Peppers.
Red and yellow bell peppers are hollowed out and filled with small pasta like ditalaini that is mixed in a savory sauce of tomatoes, garlic, capers, anchovies, and olives. The peppers are then covered with their tops and baked in a moderate oven until the peppers are tender, about 45 minutes.
Here is a link to her recipe online on Food Republic. Although the recipe claims to serve 6, your guests, as did mine, may find that just one of these delicious peppers is not enough. Below is my illustrated version of the recipe.
1. Prepare and assemble the ingredients: peppers, tomatoes, garlic, black olives, anchovies, capers, and dried oregano
2. Heat the oil and garlic and cooke the tomatoes seasoned with oregano:
3. Add the savory components: olives, capers, anchovies and season with salt and pepper.
4. Add the cooked small pasta to the sauce before filling and baking the peppers.
5. Bake in a 375ºF oven. Be sure that your peppers are tender; it may take a tad more than the suggested 45 minutes.
Wine Pairing: Chianti Montalbano, Falanghina
I cannot count the number of times I’ve prepared Italian fennel sausages. Last night, however, influenced by some cooking show, I opted to grill rather than fry them. Not as fortunate as the show’s chef, who used an open fire, I was limited to a stovetop grill pan. Yet despite this restraint, I’m happy to report that this grilling method yielded thoroughly cooked links that were delectably moist and juicy.
To grill the sausages, I made a shallow slit, about a 1/4-inch deep, lengthwise along one side of each sausage and spread it slightly open to expose the meat. I then placed the sausages slit-side down on a hot grill pan over medium-high heat and cooked them for 5 minutes. When they were nicely browned, I turned and cooked the sausages for about an additional 5 minutes.
I served the sausages accompanied by this classic peperonata inspired by my Neapolitan aunt.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 bell peppers, sliced into 1/4-inch wide strips (I prefer red, yellow, and orange to green)
1 large sweet onion, sliced lengthwise
3 small cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 tablespoon dry Marsala
In a large sauté pan heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the sliced peppers and cook them, tossing occasionally, over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, or until they start to become tender and slightly charred.
Add the sliced onion and garlic, sprinkle with some salt, and cook them with the peppers, still over medium-high heat, for about another 10 minutes, again tossing occasionally, until golden brown. Add the Marsala, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. and cook for an additional minute or so. Transfer to a serving bowl.
Pairing the peperonta with the grilled sausages makes a perfect weekday supper as we start to enter fall.
Wine Pairing: Barbera d’Alba, Syrah