Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rotini with Red Bell Pepper & Anchovy Sauce (Salsa Piccante di Peperone e Acciughe)

I wanted pasta. I wanted a creamy sauce and something different from tomato or pesto. I had two red bell peppers and my stack of Tessa Kiros cookbooks. In Venezia I found a recipe for Salsa Piccante di Peperone e Acciughe, a sauce made from red peppers and anchovies and meant to be a condiment for fish or meat or drizzled on bread. I thought it sounded like a perfect sauce for the twists and turns of rotini pasta.

Some people are frightened by anchovies. Although I confess I am not a fan of a bunch of whole ones perched about my Caesar salad due to their hairy appearance, I do love them mixed into sauces and things where their flavor adds a unique richness. If you are not a fan, just open the can or jar, tip them into the pan without looking and whisk them quickly so they break down and you don't have to spend time looking at them. I promise you won't notice they are in the dish. If you like them but your family or dinner guests don't--shhhh!!! Don't tell them, hide the tin and no one will be the wiser. What they do is round out this creamy sauce which is a pleasing mix of lightly sweet and salty and pretty darn addicting, so I highly recommend you use them.

Tessa says, "Luisa's grandmother always made this to serve with a bollito misto (boiled dinner). You can also serve it with a simple plate of boiled chicken, fish, or grilled meat. It's also great drizzled onto grilled bread.

Red Bell Pepper & Anchovy Sauce (Salsa Piccante di Peperone e Acciughe)
From Venezia by Tessa Kiros
(Makes 1 1/2 cups)

1/2 cup olive oil (I used 1/3 cup)
4 very large anchovy fillets in oil, drained
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
2 small red bell peppers, seeded and cut into pieces
1 Tbsp capers in vinegar, brined
3/4 cup vegetable broth, not too salty
2 tsp white wine vinegar

Heat the olive oil and anchovies in a small saucepan, whisking so the anchovies dissolve. Add the flour, whisking until smooth.

Add the garlic, pepper, and the capers. Bring to a slow boil, then add the vegetable broth. Lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, whisking now and then so that nothing sticks. Allow to cool a little, then puree thoroughly using a handheld blender. When completely cool, stir in the vinegar.

Notes/Results: Creamy and really delicious. The sauce has a nice complexity and is a change from your standard tomato sauce. I loved the flavor and the way it was heightened and made brighter from the touch of vinegar. This dish is simple to make and can pretty much be done in the time it takes to get the water boiling and pasta cooked. I cut down the oil from 1/2 cup to 1/3 cup (just because I am always looking for easy, painless to reduce a little fat and calories) but it wasn't missed. I served this on Barilla Plus Rotini--a personal favorite because who doesn't need a little extra fiber (4 grams versus 1 gram in regular pasta) and nutrients in a pasta that has the same taste and texture as white pasta? You can of course use the pasta of your choice. I garnished the dish with some fresh basil from my herb garden and a whisper of finely grated Parmesan cheese. Totally satisfied the current craving and I will make this tasty sauce again--as a pasta sauce or a condiment.

It's Potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, our chance to make any recipe we want. You can check out what dishes everyone made by going to the post and checking out the links.

In addition to IHCC, I am sending this easy pasta dish to Ruth's Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by my friend and Cook the Books co-host Rachel, The Crispy Cook. PPN takes a break for the holidays so stop by Rachel's blog on Friday for the last PPN roundup of this year.

Are you an anchovy fan or foe?


  1. Anchovy is such a great secret ingredient for pasta sauces! I never tell my parents/family when I'm putting it in. :P

  2. I'm a fan! Though I do agree that I like them hidden in sauces and such. I've never been brave enough to try a pizza with them draped over the top...though if one ever crosses my path, I'll give it a go (I just don't know anybody who makes or eats them this way). This sounds like it makes a fantastic pasta sauce...and it's so beautiful to boot!

  3. Ooh man, this sounds really good. Got some roasted red peppers in my pantry and those hairy eyebrows too (anchovies) so this might be a plan for a quick presto pasta dinner tonight! Envious of your being able to harvest basil from your garden in December! Thanks for sending this over to PPN this week.

  4. I love anchovies so everything about this sounds good to me!

  5. So glad I came across your blog from a fellow foodie, this looks fantastic! You've got yourself a new follower! XO Jessica @ Cajunlicious

  6. This looks perfect for pasta! Had to laugh at your comment about hairy anchovies. That's exectly why my son likes them. Boys.

    Anchovies don't bother me--I sure cooked enough of them when we were working with Jamie Oliver. But I have to admit that I can't eat them in leftovers. The flavor intensifies.

  7. I just wanted to let you know that the Presto Pasta Nights #244 roundup is now posted. Thanks for joining in the fun this week.

    Anchovy fan!

  8. Yum - I love the idea of using this sauce over pasta - I can't wait to try it. I love using anchovies in sauces for that delicous "savouriness" that they add. My partner thinks he doesn't like anchovies, but little does he know about the way I sneak them into several of his favourite things.
    Sue xo

  9. I love anchovies for how it augments that wonderful umami flavor. This looks like an excellent pasta, made special by this lovely fish.

  10. You had me at anchovy!
    I love 'em. And pasta. And red pepper.
    This is totally the dish for me!

  11. Hmmm---do you think I could sub anchovy paste?

  12. I love anchovies too - and I love the entire idea of this sauce. Yum!

  13. I love red pepper sauces, but I feel like they are completely underrated. I'm not sure why they haven't caught on and became more popular. This looks delicious and I'm definitely down for anchovies (I buy the paste so I don't have to see the hair).

    I'm going to try my Get Happy tea today. It smells so wonderful. Thanks for the suggestion.

  14. Thanks Deb in Hawaii for this lovely post..That was so lovely! Your beautiful writing and Images made me smile…what a perfect sentiment to end this day on. Thank you.


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