Bell Pepper and Goat Cheese Sauce for Pasta

Sugo di Peperoni e Formaggio Caprino

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta, making

    4

    large

Appears in

I was in the Aliani cheese shop in Venice buying goat cheese for the Piedmontese pasta sauce that precedes this one, and I happened to mention to Signor Aliani that I was going to use it for a very unusual sauce. “How do you make your sauce?” a woman standing near me asked. I told her how. “I am from Menaggio, on Lake Como,” she said, “and we make a goat cheese sauce with peppers.” “With peppers?” I exclaimed, hardly believing that I might be coming into possession of another goat cheese recipe.

Aside from the peppers, her version was totally different from mine, I was delighted to find. It is cooked, whereas mine is raw, and Como being butter country, it has butter rather than olive oil. The butter really works well, helping the goat cheese to reach a consistency that coats the pasta beautifully.

Note that only half the amount of butter listed is cooked; the remainder is tossed raw with the pasta. Do not use lean, crumbly goat cheese; the creamier it is the more smoothly you can integrate it into the sauce.

What I find strongly appealing here is the pairing of peppers and goat cheese, the sweetness and softness of the former balancing the sprightly astringency and graininess of the latter.

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Ingredients

  • 4 to 5 medium yellow or red bell peppers
  • 4 tablespoons butter (see headnote)
  • 1 teaspoon very finely chopped garlic
  • Salt
  • ¼ pound creamy goat cheese (see headnote)
  • Black pepper ground fresh
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Method

Suggested Pasta

Boxed dry pasta in either a short tubular shape such as penne or maccheroncini, or the flanged fusilli. Because of the butter base, the sauce is also very appealing over homemade noodles, either ribbon-shaped like fettuccine, or the square tonnarelli.

  1. Wash the peppers, split them in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and pulpy core, and skin them raw using a vegetable peeler. Cut them into very thin strips. You should have about 4 loosely packed cups.
  2. Put 2 tablespoons of butter and the garlic in a medium skillet, turn on the heat to medium, and cook the garlic, stirring it frequently, just until it becomes colored a very pale gold.
  3. Add the peppers and a little salt, and cook them, turning them over from time to time, until they feel very tender when prodded with a fork, about 20 or 30 minutes.
  4. Lower the heat to minimum and add the goat cheese, mashing it with a wooden spoon and turning it over with the peppers. Add liberal grindings of pepper, stir well, and remove the pan from heat.
  5. When the pasta is almost done, return the pan to low heat, warming the sauce gently.
  6. Cook the pasta, draining it when it is very firm to the bite, toss it immediately in a warm bowl with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the pepper and cheese sauce, swirling into it the chopped chives. Serve promptly.

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