Want to know how to change hearts and minds about pasta salad? Make this one for your next backyard BBQ or picnic with friends. Peperonata—the classic Southern Italian side dish of sweet peppers, onions, and tomatoes melted in olive oil—is a swell companion to pasta. It’s packed full of vegetables and serves as the dressing (a win for pasta salad, a big win for you). My peperonata borrows elements from two recipes: a generous heap of capers from Suzanne Goin’s version in Sunday Suppers at Lucques and cherry tomatoes added off the heat from Joshua McFadden’s take in Six Seasons. Better yet, the peperonata can be made several days in advance and tossed with freshly-cooked pasta whenever you’re ready. Creamy mozzarella, shaved Parmesan, slivered almonds, and loads of basil keep each bite interesting. Serve it as a main course, or pair it with grilled meat. Italian sausage and cold beer are smashing accompaniments. —EmilyC
large sweet peppers (about 1 1/2 pounds)--I like using a mix of red, yellow, and orange peppers
olive oil, plus more for drizzling
small red onion (or half a large red onion), thinly sliced into strips about the same size as peppers
minced thyme leaves
Kosher salt plus freshly ground black pepper
red wine or sherry vinegar, plus more to taste
halved cherry tomatoes, divided
casarecce or other tubular pasta
toasted pine nuts, chopped walnuts, or slivered almonds
basil, torn into small pieces
fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-sized chunks
1 1/2 ounces
Parmesan, thinly shaved
In This Recipe
Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and remove the stems, seeds, and membranes. Cut each pepper lengthwise into thin strips, then cut the strips in half if they’re long.
In a large saute pan or skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the peppers, onion, thyme, and salt and pepper, to taste. Saute for about 6 minutes, tossing often, until the peppers and onions soften. The peppers should be soft but still have a little crunch to them. Add the capers and cook for another minute, then add the vinegar and remove the pan from the heat.
Transfer the peperonata to a shallow, non-reactive dish. Add 1 cup of the halved cherry tomatoes so they can marinate along with the peppers and onions. Set the peperonata aside while you make the rest of the dish, or refrigerate until you’re ready to use (it can be made several days in advance). Bring to room temperature before using.
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. While the pasta cooks, season the remaining 1 cup of halved cherry tomatoes with salt.
Drain the pasta and toss with the peperonata in a large bowl. Let the pasta cool until just warm, toss in the raw cherry tomatoes and their juices, the toasted nuts, and the basil--then add the mozzarella and Parmesan. For presentation, I like to add the cheese at the end (and only very gently toss) so it stays white and creamy. Taste and adjust the seasoning and acidity, then gild the lily by drizzling more olive oil over the pasta. Serve at room temperature.