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John and I love spending lazy Saturday mornings at the South-of-the-James, our favorite local Farmers’ Market. One recent, early-autumn day, we saw these beautiful peppers. I couldn’t resist photographing them, and of course I wondered how I might prepare them. I asked the vendor if they were sweet peppers or hot.

“Oh, they’re very mild,” she said. “I like to pop them right in my mouth.”

With that disclaimer in hand, John and I circled back to Cavanna’s, a fresh, handmade pasta stand, where we bought tagliolini, a sort of secondo cugino to fettuccine. We also picked up a zucchini, and—back in our neighborhood—bought some sweet Italian sausage to give the dish some heft.

Reader, if by writing this blog I can impart one lesson and one lesson only, let it be this: Whenever a farm vendor tells you that a pepper is mild, question it. Doubt it with every fiber of your being. Bring all of your skepticism to bear and, above all, never ever roast a pan of them in a hot oven and breathe in the fumes when you open the door. That said, use—at most—one-half of two of the smallest peppers for your dish. And only after removing their seeds. You must trust me on this. As for the remainder, give them to your husband’s colleague from India, who is as passionate about spontaneously combustible spices as mares are to oats or lambs are to ivy.

The recipe I concocted ended up being incredibly delicious. And, not counting the inhalation of hot-pepper fumes, no husbands or wives were injured during the preparation of this dish.
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Peppery Pasta Parmigiano, a set on Flickr.

Gallery of images for Peppery Pasta Parmigiano Recipe

Peppery Pasta Parmigiano

Makes four to six servings

1 pound of fresh tagliolini pasta
1/4 cup of good olive oil, divided
1 onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini, peeled and sliced thin
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, casing removed and sausage crumbled
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1-2 small, colorful peppers (refer to above disclaimer), seeds removed,
cut in half, and then cut in ribbons. Use one-half of each pepper.
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

Heat 1/8-cup olive oil in a sauté pan and brown the sausage until it is done and no longer pink. Set aside. In a second sauté pan, heat remaining olive oil and add onion, garlic, zucchini, and the browned sausage. Cook at medium heat for five minutes, or until onion is transparent.

Add wine and reduce at high heat for five minutes. Lower heat to medium, and add parsley and peppers. Season with pepper flakes, salt, and pepper and cook for five minutes.

With the pot of salted water at a roiling boil, add the fresh pasta. Take care to cook according to the package directions, noting that fresh pasta typically only takes two to three minutes to cook.

Drain the cooked pasta and rinse with cold water. Place about half in a large serving bowl and toss with the pepper/sausage concoction. Add remaining pasta and continue to toss. Top with cheese and serve.