This is a recipe for a delicious (although not cheap), rich and intensely flavoured pasta sauce. It's best served with penne, but any pasta will do. The sauce is also excellent poured over spicy Italian sausages. It takes between 45 and 90 minutes to prepare, depending on your patience. The longer you leave it the better. You could serve it with cheese (parmesan or the slightly milder pecorino for example), but it isn't necessary.
- Olive oil
- 1 Garlic clove
- 1 Red onion, finely chopped
- 4 Sweet red peppers1, (core, white pith and seeds removed2) and cut into matchsticks3
- 800g of tomatoes4, roughly chopped
- A squeeze of tomato puree
- Salt and pepper
- 150g Black olives, roughly chopped
- A handful of fresh basil
Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the garlic and very lightly fry until it begins to colour. Add the onion and continue to fry very slowly until the onion melts. This isn't essential - you can fry the onion more quickly if you like, but you definitely don't want it to brown at all.
Throw in the peppers cut into matchstick strips and put the lid on your pan. Cook (lifting the lid and stirring occasionally) until the peppers are soft. The softer the peppers are the better, but it can take a while to get them really soft.
Add the chopped tomatoes, puree, salt and pepper. Cook this at a fast simmer until most of the loose liquid has disappeared. At this point, if you're having pasta you should put it on, since the sauce takes about ten minutes to finish from this stage.
Throw in the black olives and cook for another ten minutes; the sauce should have no loose liquid left at the top (or maybe just a little). Ideally, it should be slightly sticky but not dry. Half a minute before the sauce is ready tear the basil leaves and throw them in.
Chop two red chillies and thrown them in at the same time as the peppers.
Skin the Peppers
Skin the peppers before chopping and adding them; this will improve the texture of the sauce. You can skin the peppers by grilling them until they're black and rubbing the skins off (place them in a bag, seal it and rub the peppers, the skins should come off if they're completely black). Another way of skinning them is to blacken their flesh over a naked flame (a blowtorch if you have one, or just use a gas ring), then place them in a bag and rub the skins off, as above. Finally, you could skin them by cutting them into pieces about an inch wide and frying them in olive oil on a high heat in a frying pan with a lid (to keep them from going dry). If you can do any of these at the same time as preparing the early bits of the recipe, it might save you a bit of time too.
Freshen it up
The sauce as described above is very rich and powerfully flavoured. You can make a fresher tasting one by halving the number of peppers and adding more tomato (definitely use all fresh tomatoes for this one), cooking it for slightly less time so there is a bit of loose liquid remaining (you don't want it to be sticky), and adding coriander at the end instead of basil.