Linquini with Broccoli Rabe Pesto, Oregano and Peppers
For the longest time I thought I hated roasted peppers because all I'd ever had was the kind from the jar. They were just so...slimy. And I don't think slimy is ever a good descriptor when talking about food. However, flavor can often make up for texture, and the jarred kind doesn't seem to have a whole lot of that either. I've roasted peppers before, actually, and, if I'm being honest, it was kind of a pain. I used the method where you hold the peppers with tongs over the flame of your gas range and wait for the skin to blister, turning as you go. Well sitting there roasting peppers like that, it turns out, is unnecessary. That's what the broiler is for.
I thought this was a pretty creative recipe, actually, one from Andrew Carmellini's Urban Italian. One of the things I loved most about it is that you use the leaves from the broccoli rabe for the pesto, then the little florets and stems as vegetable additions to the pasta. So you're really using just about everything for this one, and it's delicious. Plus, there's that new broiler technique for roasting peppers. And I'll forever be thanking Carmellini for it, although now in retrospect it seems so obvious. I guess many good ideas often do.
Linguine with Broccoli Rabe Pesto, Oregano and Peppers
Adopted from Andrew Carmellini's Urban Italian
1 pound dried linguine
1 bunch broccoli rabe
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced as thin as you can manage
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped
3 roasted peppers (see directions below), any colors you like
2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
You'll want to be sure that the pasta doesn't finish well in advance of the sauce, because the pasta should still be warm when combined with the pesto and peppers. So get started on the peppers first. Here's how:
Preheat your oven to broil. Slice the peppers in half lengthwise and pull out the seeds, stem and white pith. Put the peppers in a bowl (which you can reuse to let them steam) and toss them with a drizzle of olive oil, as well as some salt and pepper to season. Lay the peppers skin side up on a broiler sheet and get them in. In my oven, I have a little broiler shelf on the bottom which always places things too close to the heat source and causes almost instant burning. So I put them in the oven on the middle rack. Roast for 10 minutes, until the skins are black and blistering.
Flip the peppers over and continue to roast for another 10 minutes. Then remove them to a bowl and cover with aluminum foil or a kitchen towel in order to let them steam for about 20 minutes. At the end of this time, you should be able to slip their skins off pretty easily. Chop them into strips to be tossed with the pasta and set aside.
For the pesto, bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil while you remove the leaves from the broccoli rabe from the stems. Set the leaves aside, then trim the broccoli rabe stems to 2 to 3 inches below the florets and cut the stems in thirds.
This would be a good time to get that pasta water going so it will be boiling when you're ready for it.
Blanch the stems and florets in the boiling water for about 30 seconds, then remove to ice water to stop them from cooking, but keep the water boiling (use a slotted spoon). Next blanch the leaves in the same water for about 1 to 1.5 minutes, until they're tender. Remove the leaves and run under cold water. Then use your hands to squeeze out as much excess water from the leaves as possible.
In a blender, combine the 1/2 cup olive oil with the leaves and give it a wizz until it's the consistency of a smooth paste, about 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup water and blend again until everything is completely puréed, 30 more seconds. Add the pine nuts and blend until smooth, then add the salt and cheese and blend again until everything comes together.
Cook the pasta according to package directions, minus 1 minute.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot then brown the garlic slightly until fragrant. Add the waiting broccoli stems and florets, as well as the red pepper flakes and toss to combine. Remove the pan from the heat and toss in the linguine and pesto. Add the 1/2 cup grated cheese and fresh oregano and toss again. Crown with strips of the roasted peppers and serve.