Mary Contini

ACROSS all generations many of us are trying to do our bit to eat with a thought for the environment. Eat less meat, less cheese and dairy, choose pulses and pasta. The trend is to encourage everyone to eat more vegetables and fruit, the very thing governments have been lecturing us about for years to no avail.

As a cook, it can be a bit of a challenge to cater for lots of different choices. It’s not easy whipping up a selection of home cooked food as if you have a battery of chefs and kitchen porters at your beck and call. One solution is to find recipes that are simple, quick and tasty with only a few basics that can have ingredients added for those who want more choices. This recipe works a treat. It is delicious in its simplest form, but can easily have butter, grated parmesan or even some grilled Italian sausage added at the end. It even freezes. What’s not to like.

Neapolitan pasta with red pepper and basil sauce

5 peppers, red and yellow (not green)

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

50g unsalted butter (optional)

Sea salt

Bunch fresh basil leaves

320g pappardelle or penne, 80g per person

Freshly grated parmesan (optional)

4 Italian sausages, grilled and sliced (optional, but very popular.)

Use a vegetable peeler to peel the skin from the outside of the peppers. (This stops those who say peppers give them indigestion from complaining.) Cut them in half, deseed them and slice into narrow strips.

Choose a shallow, wide saucepan.

Warm the olive oil and add the garlic slices, cooking gently to infuse the flavour of the garlic gently in the oil, making sure you don’t let the garlic burn.

Add the pepper slices, toss them in the oil until they are well coated.

Add the rosemary.

Allow the sauce to cook gently until the peppers are softened, about 20-25 minutes.

Remove the rosemary.

If you are adding the butter add it now. This acts to thicken the sauce a little.

Season with sea salt to taste and add some black pepper.

Finally add torn leaves of fresh basil.

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water. Once it is al dente, drain it and add it to the pepperoni sauce tossing everything together.

Add a tablespoon of the pasta water if the sauce is dry.

Serve with a little extra olive oil or some freshly grated parmesan.

For those who need some meat, toss in the warm grilled sausage.