This winter weeknight dinner is bursting with flavor thanks to smoked paprika, Aleppo pepper, and plenty of garlic. Plus, the creaminess of the sauce comes (mostly) from the roasted peppers, so although it tastes decadent, it’s a little lighter than it looks.
The recipe as-written is vegetarian, but don’t hesitate to tailor it to your preferences: for the omnivore, sub in your favorite spicy Italian sausages for the Beyond Meat; for the vegan, drizzle in an unflavored dairy alternative instead of the cream (oat milk works great).
As for the pasta, I love the way the smaller calamarata rings catch this meaty sauce, but any tubular shape is your friend here. (For my tips on cooking better pasta, check out this article.) —Meryl Feinstein, Pasta Social Club
Test Kitchen Notes
Pasta Social Club is a column by Meryl Feinstein, Food52's Resident Pasta Maker, community builder, and pastaia extraordinaire. Meryl will teach us about everything from semolina to spaghetti to sauce—and will show us how pasta is a great way to make great friends and have lots of fun. —The Editors
- Prep time 15 minutes
- Cook time 45 minutes
- Serves 4
tubular pasta like calamarata, paccheri, or rigatoni
large red bell peppers
(1/2 cup) vegetable stock
(3 tablespoons) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
(about 3 links) Beyond Meat Hot Italian sausages, broken into pieces (see Author Notes)
medium yellow onion, finely chopped
garlic cloves, minced
(1 tablespoon) tomato paste
(1/2 cup) dry white wine
(1/2 teaspoon) smoked paprika
(1/2 teaspoon) Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
(1/3 cup) heavy cream (see Author Notes)
finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano, for finishing (optional)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
Prepare the peppers
Set the oven broiler to high. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and stems, then place the halves cut-side down on a foil-lined baking sheet.
Broil the peppers for 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet mid-way through, until the skins are completely blackened. (Alternatively, if you have a gas stovetop, carefully char the whole peppers directly over the flame, using tongs to rotate them until blackened.)
Transfer the charred peppers to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap or a dish towel. Let them steam for 10 minutes.
When the peppers are still warm but cool enough to handle, remove the skins—they should peel off easily.
Transfer the peppers and the stock to a blender and purée until very smooth. Set aside.
Make the sauce & start the pasta
Start bringing a large pot of water to a boil.
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high. Add the sausage pieces and use a spatula or wooden spoon to break them up even more in the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Follow with the finely chopped onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally and scraping up any remaining sausage pieces from the bottom of the pan, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Stir in the garlic and cook briefly until fragrant, no more than a minute. Then add the tomato paste and cook an additional minute until it darkens in color, stirring frequently. If the garlic starts to brown, turn down the heat and add a splash of water or wine to deglaze the bottom of the pan.
Return the sausage to the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the wine. Stir to combine, and simmer until the wine has reduced by half, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the red pepper purée, along with the spices and a pinch of salt. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 5 to 7 minutes.
While the sauce simmers, add a generous amount of salt to the boiling water and follow with the pasta. Stir for a few seconds to prevent sticking. Cook the pasta until just shy of al dente—usually a couple of minutes before the package directions—and taste a piece every so often to check for doneness.
Finish the dish
Once the sauce has thickened, stir in the cream and season to taste with salt. Remove from the heat.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pasta directly to the sauce, along with a couple of spoonfuls of pasta water. Turn the heat back on to medium-low and toss to coat. Cook the pasta in the sauce for another minute or two to meld the flavors. Add more pasta water to loosen the sauce as needed.
Serve immediately, topped with finely grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.