Here’s an oldie but oh-so goodie—so much so that the card upon which I glued the clipping, stained to near illegibility, is dog-eared from close to 30 years of handling. If memory serves, this recipe, which I’ve adapted over time, originated in the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, and was part of an article featuring different ways to prepare a variety of pastas. As so often happens when I discover a new recipe, I become so enamored of it that the thought of leaving it—even for a momentary dalliance with a thematic variation—never enters my mind. That’s the case with linguine alla pastora. I’m sure I’m missing out on the chance to enhance my repertoire, and I tell myself I’ll retire this from my rotation when I grow bored with it, but that hasn’t happened yet. Probably never will.
What makes this recipe so attractive to me? Well, it’s a great summertime pasta dish, when farmers’ markets are brimming with the fresh vegetables it requires. Also, it’s quite easy and enjoyable to make. I love the aromas that fill the kitchen when I saute the ingredients for this meal. And, truth be told, I’m a sucker for compliments. This comes as a shock, I know. But seriously, every time I’ve served this dish, whether for family or friends, it gets raves. Positive reinforcement is a powerful thing.
The only step in this recipe that might give you pause is the call for roasted red peppers. Oh sure, you can buy them in a jar at your local specialty market, but why would you when they’re so easy to prepare? I’ll explain how to roast red peppers at the end of this post. For now, join me as I walk you through one of my favorite pasta dishes, the rustic Linguine alla Pastora, or, if you will, the Shepherdess’ Linguine.
Linguine alla Pastora
—4 to 6 servings
1 pound imported linguine pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, sliced in small arcs
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 zucchini, sliced
1/4 pound pancetta (Italian bacon), cut into lardons*
1/2 cup dry white wine
1-3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 red peppers, roasted and sliced**
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 (at least) cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
You would do well to roast the red peppers first so they have a chance to cool while you’re preparing the rest of the ingredients. Instructions can be found at the end of this post.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
While the water is coming to the boil. heat olive oil in a 12-inch saute-pan. Add onion, garlic, zucchini, and pancetta, and cook at medium heat for five minutes, or until onion is transparent.
Add pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente.While the pasta is cooking, add wine to the sauteed vegetables and reduce at high heat for five minutes. Lower heat to medium, and add parsley and red pepper slices. Season with peppers and cook five minutes longer.
When the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain and reserve.
When the saute is ready, place about half of the cooked pasta in a large serving bowl and toss with about half of the saute. Add the remainder of the pasta and saute and toss well. Top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (I believe there’s no such thing as too much Parmigiano-Reggiano) and serve.
*If you cannot find pancetta, you may substitute prosciutto. I’ve also made this with fresh sauteed sea scallops, omitting the Italian meat entirely.
**How to Roast Red Peppers
After washing the peppers, dry them and place them on a rack under the broiler element of your oven. (Don’t place them directly on the removable rack that comes with your oven; use something similar to what is shown in the photograph and place that on the removable rack. Also, I place the oven rack fairly close to the heating element.) What follows is very important and can’t be over-emphasized: keep an eye on the peppers while you are roasting them. Don’t leave the kitchen to tend to something else. You want to be nearby to (carefully) turn them with tongs as they begin to char so they are nicely roasted on all sides. The entire procedure should not take more than ten minutes, depending upon the size of the peppers and how close to the heat you’ve placed them.
After removing the roasted peppers from the oven, very carefully wrap each one in a paper towel. They will be hot to handle, so you might want to wait a moment or two until you can comfortably perform this step.
Place each wrapped pepper in a small plastic bag and set aside while you tend to other aspects of your recipe. So cossetted, they will steam nicely, making it much easier for you to remove their skins.
After about 15 minutes or so, rouse the peppers from their little sleeping bags. I run them under cold water to a) make them easier to handle, since they’re still quite warm, and b) begin rubbing and pulling at the charred skin to peel it off. Using your fingers, pull the skin away from the peppers, then remove the stem and seeds. (A vegetable peeler won’t work.) After the peppers are limp, empty shells of what they used to be, slice them into strips. That’s it. You’re done!