For Philadelphia chef Marc Vetri, a life without pasta would be a life without music, a life without love. No dish has as many variations, colors, tastes, textures and subtleties as a dish of pasta. And while he believes pasta has long been misunderstood, he writes, “mastering it is as simple as getting dressed in the morning. You’ve stocked your closet with this and that, now just let yourself get inspired by what’s happening that day.”
This recipe for Spaghetti with Pepper Ragù is from his new book Mastering Pasta. He says, “This is a simple dish, but the mix of peppers makes it special. If you use only one kind of pepper, the ragù won’t have the same complexity.”
The book includes detailed instructions for making your own pasta at home (he recommends his Semolina dough for this recipe), but if you’re using store bought noodles he suggests using either linguini or rigatoni.
Spaghetti with Pepper Ragù
Makes 4 Servings
12 ounces (340g) Extruded Semolina Dough (*or your favorite homemade pasta recipe or store bought linguini or rigatoni)
Semolina, for dusting (*if using homemade pasta)
¾ cup (177 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
8 ounces (227 g) Anaheim peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ¼-inch (6-mm) pieces (about 1¾ cups/112 g)
8 ounces (227 g) poblano peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ¼-inch (6-mm) pieces (about 1¾ cups/112 g)
8 ounces (227 g) red Fresno peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ¼-inch (6-mm) pieces (about 1¾ cups/112 g)
8 ounces (227 g) Italian long, hot (frying) peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into ¼-inch pieces (about 1¾ cups/112 g)
½ cup (50 g) grated Parmesan cheese, plus some for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
*IF YOU ARE MAKING YOUR OWN PASTA* Fit your pasta extruder or stand-mixer attachment with the chilled spaghetti plate. If using a pasta extruder, set it to medium speed. If using a stand mixer, with the machine run- ning on medium speed, feed the dough into the hopper in marble-size clumps, using a pushing tool to push the clumps into the auger, being careful not to overload it. As the pasta is extruded, cut it into 9-inch (23-cm) lengths and immediately dust it with semolina to prevent sticking.
Dry the pasta by placing it on wire racks that will fit in your refrigerator and refrigerate it uncovered for at least 8 hours or up to 4 days. The pasta will get drier and harder as it sits. I like the texture after 2 days in the refrigerator. For more bite, dry the pasta with a humidifier as described on page 120, and then store it in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the spaghetti, cover the pot to quickly return the water to a boil, and cook the pasta until it is tender but still a little chewy when bitten, 4 to 6 minutes (8 to 10 minutes for fully dried boxed pasta). Drain the pasta and reserve the pasta water.
Meanwhile, heat the oil and garlic in a large, deep sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add all of the peppers and cook them, stirring now and then, until they are very tender and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add 1½ cups (355 ml) of the pasta water and cook the sauce until it thickens slightly, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic.
Add the drained pasta to the pan and toss until the sauce gets creamy and coats the pasta, 1 to 2 minutes, adding more pasta water if necessary to create a creamy sauce. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Parmesan. Keep the pasta moving until the cheese melts and pasta and sauce become one thing in the pan. Taste it, adding salt and pepper until it tastes good to you.
Dish out the pasta onto warmed plates and garnish with Parmesan.