Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Roasted Peppers and Sun-Dried Tomatoes Pasta--Comfort Food that Makes Us Feel at Home Anywhere in the World

We move, we travel, we visit again the places where we were born. We miss a childhood home we left behind and back there, again, we miss the place we live now. We look for the perfect place on earth, a place that does not really exist because such place means something different to each of us.

In my home town, an artist I was buying jewelry from asked me where I came from. I hesitated for a long moment as I could not find an answer immediately. Half of my life I lived in Poland, the other half I was thrown from one place to another, ending up in the US. I do not know where I feel more at home--in the place where people speak my native tongue, or in the place where they speak the native tongue of my kids. She saw me pondering and tried to help "I think home is where most memories come from". "The nicest memories" she added. And I still wonder where my best memories come from.

I came back and put my suitcases in the hall of our DC home. I left them unpacked for a couple of days, suspended like myself between my past and present life. I just took out the papers and the beautiful small dishes I bought for my new pictures, a notebook with the new and the long forgotten recipes, and bags of "smuggled" spices.

I headed for the perfect place on earth--my kitchen, where I can create the best of all worlds with Polish bread, Italian pasta, French salad, Portuguese dessert, and Californian wine. I am sure I am not the only one feeling that way. I realized that, after a month of my native cuisine, I got to miss pasta--my comfort food that will make me feel at home again.

I know many pasta recipes and got some of them from my Italian friends, but this recipe was totally my own creation. Perhaps something similar already exists in Italy, but for this exact version I am ready to take all the compliments and complaints.

Roasted Peppers and Sun-Dried Tomatoes Pasta
(For six people)

1 box of pasta, I use Barilla's penne,
3 red or yellow bell peppers,
1 medium red onion,
1 cup sun dried tomatoes,
1 cup table cream,
1/3 cup slivered roasted almonds,
1/3 cup flat leaves parsley,
2 tbsp olive oil,
salt and pepper,
freshly ground Parmesan cheese.

1. Roast the peppers until their skin becomes black. This step can be made ahead; roasted peppers can be stored in a refrigerator for up to three days. If you use an electric oven you can roast whole peppers or cut them in halves, remove the seeds and put the pepper halves skin up on a baking tin as close to the broil as possible. If you have a gas stove, you can stuck the whole pepper on a fork and roast it over the gas burner. Put the roasted peppers on a dish, cover them immediately with a lid, and keep them covered until they cool down. Then remove the blackened peel--the better roasted the pepper, the easier the peel will come off. Cut each pepper into quarters and then into stripes.
2. Cook pasta al dente in salted water.
3. Cut the onion in half and slice into thin slices.
4. Strain the sun-dried tomatoes from the oil and cut into smaller stripes. Save the oil.
5. If you have enough of the oil from the tomatoes you can use it for frying the onion.
6. When onion becomes transparent, add peppers and let them fry on a low heat for about 5 minutes.
7. Add tomatoes and about 1/4 cup of water, cook for 1 minute, and add the cream.
8. Mix the sauce gently, season with salt and pepper (If you have a Vegeta spice mix available, you can add a teaspoon of it, but then reduce the amount of salt), add almonds and let the sauce cook for 5 minutes.
9. Pour the sauce on hot pasta, finish with chopped parsley and as much of the freshly shredded Parmesan as you like.

This pasta, as all others, tastes best with one or two glasses of red wine, and followed with baby green salad.