- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I love dishes that take just a few minutes to prepare and offer big flavor results. Today’s pasta dish takes simple angel hair pasta with tomato-basil sauce and elevates it into an American bistro classic. American bistro dishes often combine different ethnic flavors to produce signature dishes. Here, Italian tomato basil sauce is accented by the Mexican chipotle chili pepper.

Picture a plate of pasta with an array of colors - green asparagus and peas, yellow sweet peppers and red tomato sauce sprinkled with straw-colored freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Often Italian tomato sauces add some crushed red pepper to spice up the sauce. Here we have included the Mexican chipotle pepper.

Chipotle peppers are smoked jalapenos, and they offer both heat and a delightful smoked flavor. This chipolte tomato sauce adds an unexpected touch of smoky heat by adding half of a chipotle chili. If you prefer a spicier sauce, go ahead and use a whole chili. Use canned chipotles packed in adobo sauce for the best flavor. You can also use a bit of the adobo sauce to add even more heat, but be careful - these chilies can be very hot.

This dish also tastes great with the addition of seared scallops or sliced grilled chicken breasts. I like to serve this in wide shallow soup bowls for a pretty presentation. Serve a simple green salad to begin and accompany with a spicy zinfandel.

Help is on the way

• When blanching the vegetables, use a kitchen strainer with a handle to make it easier to lift the vegetables out of the water.

• If you can’t find chipotles in adobo, look for chipotle Tabasco sauce and add a few drops to taste.

• Try pecorino Toscano instead of the Parmesan cheese.

• Look for tomato sauces like San Mazarino or any good-quality jarred variety.

• Look for canned peeled yellow peppers or use a raw yellow pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced.

Angel hair pasta with spring vegetables and tomato sauce

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

1 pound pencil-thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths

1 pound dried angel hair pasta

3 cups favorite store-bought tomato sauce

1/2 canned chipotle en adobo, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

1 yellow pepper, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips

1 1/2 cups frozen petite peas, defrosted

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Place the asparagus pieces in a kitchen strainer basket with a handle, lower into the boiling water, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Immediately transfer the asparagus to a bowl of ice water.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until al dente.

Meanwhile, place the tomato sauce in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the chipotle and basil and bring to a simmer. Add the asparagus, peas, and yellow pepper and heat just until sauce is hot and the vegetables are warmed through.

Scoop out and reserve 1/4 cup of the sauce. Drain the pasta well and transfer to the tomato sauce. Use tongs and toss to coat the pasta with the sauce. Place the pasta in a serving bowl. Spoon the reserved sauce on top and sprinkle with the parsley and Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

• Diane Rossen Worthington is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Holidays.” To contact her, go to www.seriously simple.com.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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