Pasta pepperonata

Having spent most of my life in an urban town where the only health shop for miles is Holland & Barrett, I was very excited recently to set foot inside York’s Alligator Wholefoods, on Fishergate. A little store offering fresh local produce, meat and dairy alternatives, health foods, and specialist products, it’s easy to spend ages wandering round and taking stock of the sheer variety. On my first visit, I left with smoked tofu (returning the next week for its marinated counterpart), miso, organic tortillas, and vegan chocolate (which unfortunately left less of an impression).

I also picked up a stack of recipes from Suma, an ethical UK wholefoods cooperative. Over an iced mocha in the sun by Lendal Bridge, I flicked through them and made a mental note to try all of them: my first – this pepperonata – was simple, satisfying, and very easy to make.

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As I was only cooking for myself, I used one courgette, half an onion, half a red pepper, and cherry tomatoes. As per the recipe instructions, you’ll need the following to serve 4:

  • 2 red and 2 yellow peppers
  • 2 red onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • a tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 handfuls of parsley
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 handfuls grated cheese
  • 2 heaped tbsp crème fraîche
  • 455g penne (or fusilli)
  • salt and pepper

 

Begin by deseeding and slicing the peppers relatively finely, along with the onions. Chop the garlic and the parsley leaves, retaining the stalks.

Heat the oil in a large lidding frying pan, add the peppers, season, and cook slowly for fifteen minutes. Then, add the onion and cook for another twenty minutes.

Put in the parsley stalks and garlic, and keep moving for a couple of minutes. Season again and splash in the balsamic vinegar, mixing well. Add a handful of parmesan and the crème fraîche, then turn the heat down to low as the pasta cooks.

Drain the pasta when cooked to perfection, and reserve a little water. Put in a bowl and pour the vegetables elegantly on top with the parsley leaves, water to loosen if needed, and a glug of olive oil. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese (and a little extra) and eat.

I served mine over a bowl of Tesco’s high-protein fusili (containing 16.8g of protein per 70g cooked portion!). Slow-roasting peppers is something I’d not attempted before, but in comparison to roasting, they don’t shrivel the vegetable as much, leaving it with more bite: and the smell is heavenly. In fact, I enjoyed this so much that I made it the next day, serving instead over rice.

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