A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I had the single-greatest food experience of our lives at Eataly in Chicago. If you’ve never been, you need to drop everything you’re doing right now and go. And yes, I’m being completely serious. It’s essentially the Disney World of Italian food. The Chicago Eataly is in an old ESPN zone and is larger than the one in New York City. Which is great for Midwesterners because our appetites demand 63,000 square feet of wall to wall food. The Chicago branch is also co-owned by two of my culinary heroes, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. If you’re expecting it to look like an oversized Olive Garden, then you will be pleasantly surprised. I couldn’t believe how modern everything looked. I didn’t feel embarrassed of my Italian heritage like I do when I go to Buca Di Beppo.
But enough about the looks! Let’s get to the good stuff. Eataly is an entirely immersive food experience. You can enjoy an exquisite charcuterie and cheese platter and then buy the exact same meats and cheeses from the deli. This is ideal for me because I’m the kind of person who loves recreating restaurant dishes at home. With that being said, there’s no way anyone could do their regular grocery shopping there. But if you’re looking for a unique treat, there’s no better place. I was amazed by the impeccable quality of all of the meat and produce. It was difficult for Max and I to leave without buying up the entire place!
I did manage to pick up this beautiful pasta made by Afeltra, a brand that I’ve never heard of before. There were so many unique pasta shapes, I wanted to buy them all! I knew that this particular shape would be the perfect vessel for my roasted red pepper pasta sauce. This is the perfect dish to enjoy on Good Friday, the final day of Lent. It’s a fun twist on traditional pasta sauce that doesn’t use a single tomato. I also added mozzarella pearls to give the pasta a creamy and meaty texture. A tangy goat cheese would also be delicious.
Pretty Pepper Pasta
- 4 Red Bell Peppers
- 2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
- 1/4 c Heavy Cream
- 1 lb of your Favorite Pasta
- 1/4 t sugar
- Salt and Pepper, to Taste
- 1/2 c Basil
- Mozzarella Pearls Sprinkled with Salt
1. Preheat broiler on high. Place red peppers on a foil lined cookie sheet. Rub liberally with olive oil. Place peppers under broiler, and cook until charred on all sides. This took me about 20 minutes. While the peppers are roasting, sauté the garlic over low heat in a pan big enough for the sauce. You’ll also want to start boiling your water.
2. Once the peppers are sufficiently charred, place in a sealed zip-lock bag. After they cool, remove the peppers from the bag. Place on a cutting board and remove the blackened skins. They should slip off very easily. Then scrape out all of the seeds from the inside. I like to rinse the peppers under water to make sure there are absolutely no seeds. After the peppers are cleaned, puree them in a blender or food processor until smooth.
3. If you haven’t already done so, drop your pasta in boiling water. Pour the pureed peppers in the pan with garlic. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Stir in heavy cream and the remaining olive oil. Add sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Slice half of the fresh basil into ribbons and add to sauce.
4. Add the cooked pasta to the pan and stir until it’s coated evenly. Divide the pasta into bowls. Stud the pasta with the mozzarella pearls. Garnish with the remaining basil. Serve immediately and enjoy!
This is what your peppers should like after they’re roasted.