Courtesy Ian Wortham, chef de cuisine, Tavernetta, Denver
At Tavernetta, a new restaurant in Denver, Ian Wortham’s menu features twists on classics found all across Italy. One region he draws from is Calabria, famous for its chile peppers and the signature pesto that contains them. Wortham’s sweet-hot version incorporates sun-dried tomatoes, and is a revelatory alternative to the expected basil combination.
- 3 red bell peppers (about 12 ounces), halved, stems and seeds removed
- 1 ½ ounces sun-dried tomatoes
- ¼ cup red-wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ¼ cup Bomba Calabrese*
- 3 ounces ricotta salata, sliced and crumbled (plus additional for garnish)
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound rigatoni
- 12 ounces pancetta, cut in ½-inch dice
- Lemon juice, to taste
- Toasted pistachios, coarsely chopped (for garnish)
Heat oven to 425˚F. Place peppers on baking sheet, cut-side down. Roast for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and move to covered bowl until cool enough to handle. Rub off skin.
In small saucepan, combine sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, tomato paste and ½ cup water. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool.
Combine roasted peppers, sun-dried tomato mixture, Bomba Calabrese, ricotta salata, garlic and olive oil in blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Add salt, to taste.
In sauté pan over medium heat, add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp on outside but still chewy, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan, and drain on paper towels.
Bring large pot of well-salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente. Strain, and reserve ½ cup pasta water.
In large pot, stir to combine reserved pasta water, pesto, pancetta and cooked pasta. Add more pasta water, if necessary, to thin. Add lemon juice just before serving. Garnish with pistachios and ricotta salata. Serves 6.
*Bomba Calabrese is a Calabrian pepper spread available in supermarkets, specialty stores and online.
I Vigneri di Salvo Foti 2016 Rosso (Etna). “This is a delicious, juicy and cherry-fruited Nerello Mascalese-based blend from the northern slopes of Etna, made by the legendary winemaker and natural winemaking pioneer, Salvo Foti,” says Carlin Karr, wine director at Tavernetta. “The fruitful attack of the wine is balanced by minerality and fine tannins, which help balance the subtle heat of the Calabrian pesto.”