What makes something a pasta sauce and not a dip? Or a soup, even? You roast and blend vegetables to make soups and dips, but can you not use the same emulsion to coat pasta? I don’t see why not. As an extension to that thought, I present to you my pasta romesco.
Traditionally eaten with fish and other meats, this Spanish dip is everything I want in a pasta sauce – it has roasted peppers and tomatoes for concentrated depth, almonds to give the sauce heft, raw garlic and vinegar for acidity, and a combination of peppercorns and red chillies for heat. I threw in some kale to boost the veggie count, but this is totally optional. Spinach would be a good alternative if you can’t find kale, as would other vegetables like mushroom, zucchini, aubergine or a mix of the lot. Keep it as uncluttered or loaded as you’d like.
I use nuts a lot in my cooking to thicken sauces and curries. Pesto of course uses pine nuts for bulk (I use almonds here instead), and there’s cashews in my beet pasta and in this versatile red pepper and tomato cashew sauce. Also in my spinach pesto. Nuts are a great thickener and help eke out many meals with one small batch of sauce. It also makes an otherwise onion-tomato heavy base more nutritious, and because of the natural oils present in them you don’t need to add any additional oil at all.
If we’ve had any conversation at all in the recent past, there’s a very good chance that this pasta sauce has come up (and not just because I’ve found that talking about my recent food discoveries is the only way I know to steer away from unsolicited parenting advice). Hoo boy. I’m just a one trick pony in this department.
PASTA ROMESCO WITH KALE
- 200 grams spaghetti (or other pasta of choice)
- 3 red peppers
- 350 grams tomatoes (any variety)
- 150 grams kale (see notes)
- 2 tablespoons almonds
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
- ½ teaspoon peppercorns
- 3 dried red chillies
- 35 grams Parmesan, to serve
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of milk, if necessary
- Salt, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 180 C.
- Halve the red peppers and remove the seeds and inner white membrane. If using cherry tomatoes, use as is. If using regular, chop them into rough 2 inch pieces. Place them on a large baking tray to avoid overcrowding. Toss with olive oil and salt. Roast for 45 mins until browned and blistered.
- De-stem the kale (strip the leaves off of the thick central stem with your fingers.) Coarsely chop.
- Cook the pasta according to packet instructions. Once the pasta is cooked through, add the kale to the same pot and cook for 4-5 mins. Drain and add both back to the pot.
- Add the roasted peppers and tomatoes to a blender jar along with almonds, garlic, chillies, peppercorns, vinegar and salt. Blend to a smooth paste scraping down the jar a few times if necessary.
- Toss the sauce with the pasta and kale. If it’s too dry, add a bit of milk to bring it to the right consistency. Grate or shave Parmesan over the top and serve.