This dish is an exposition of sweet peppers. Here they're charred and pureed for a sauce, roasted and stirred into the pasta, and quick-cured for a pretty topper. Mild Aleppo pepper and spicy ground red pepper actually make this a five-pepper pasta.
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 medium red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon sugar
2 Fresno chiles, thinly sliced
12 ounces uncooked whole-grain rotini
12 ounces red bell peppers (about 2 large)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 large garlic cloves
1 pound multicolored mini baby bell peppers
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
1/4 cup small oregano leaves
1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper or sweet paprika
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 400°.
Place balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup water, and onion in an 11 x 7-inch glass or ceramic baking dish; cover tightly with foil. Bake at 400° for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes or until liquid evaporates. Cool.
Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, sugar, and Fresno chiles in a bowl. Let stand 20 minutes.
Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain. Rinse with cold water; drain.
Preheat broiler to high.
Place large bell peppers on a baking sheet. Coat with cooking spray. Broil 15 minutes or until charred, turning occasionally. Place peppers in a bowl; cover tightly with plastic wrap. Cool. Peel and seed large bell peppers over a bowl, reserving juices. Place peeled peppers and their juices in a blender with 1/2 teaspoon salt, oil, sherry vinegar, ground red pepper, and garlic; blend until smooth.
Add baby bell peppers to baking sheet. Coat with cooking spray. Broil 10 minutes or until lightly charred, stirring once after 5 minutes. Place baby bell peppers in a bowl; tightly cover with plastic wrap. Cool. Remove stems and seeds; coarsely chop peppers. Place onion mixture, remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, pureed pepper mixture, pasta, baby bell peppers, and half of mozzarella in a large bowl; toss to combine. Top with Fresno chile mixture, remaining mozzarella, oregano, and Aleppo pepper.
Even without the fact that I absolutely HATE peeling peppers, this pasta salad just didn't really please anyone in my family. We all agreed there were components of it that we liked but hubby thought there was too much oregano flavor. Daughter didn't like all the peppers/onions (but loved the cheese and pasta of course). I just thought it was a little strange-tasting. It does make a lot and would be a good dish to take to a picnic or potluck. But all the steps and time involved, it just won't be something I will make again.