July Fourth Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad

July Fourth Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad

Amanda Agati created this tasty sophisticated pasta salad just in time for the fourth of July. This pasta is best served room temperature which makes it perfect for an outdoor barbeque and July fourth. Amanda recommends choosing a pasta that will absorb the sauce nicely, such as Cavatappi- which is a thick, curly pasta.

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad Recipe

Ingredients

2 lbs Pasta, preferably Cavatappi

1 large eggplant- chopped in small cubes with skin on

5 large roasted peppers

½ cup Pignoli nuts

2 bunches of arugala, washed, drained and de-stemmed and torn

1 Large Pepperoni Stick

½ lb pitted large Moroccan olives, coarsely chopped

Two small jars of Artichoke hearts, drained

½ tsp of Crushed Hot pepper flakes

8 cloves of garlic- minced

1 Small can of tomato paste

½ lb Ricotta Salata- sliced into cubes

Preparations

1) Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Boil the pasta until al dente. While the pasta is boiling, place the eggplant on a tray and drizzle generously with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast eggplant in the oven until lightly roasted. Let eggplant cool to room temperature once roasted.

2) Cover the bottom of a small sauce pan with olive oil. When the oil is hot, place minced garlic and crushed hot pepper flakes in the sauce pan. Add ½ teaspoon of salt and 1/2 a teaspoon of pepper.

3) While the garlic cooks, puree the roasted peppers in a blender and add to the sauce pan when the garlic is lightly browned. Mix can of tomato paste with 3 tablespoons of water to thin out the paste and) add to the sauce pan. Let the sauce cook for about 15 minutes on low heat. Then let cool.

3) When pasta is ready, place in a colander and rise with cold water to prevent further cooking. Let pasta drain.

4) Once the sauce has reached room temperature, mix in slowly to the pasta little by little, just enough so the pasta is lightly coated in the sauce. There should be no excess sauce.

5) Toast pignoli nuts in the oven, on 325 F until lightly brown. Watch the pignoli nuts carefully, as they burn easily.

6) Add pignoli nuts, olives, artichoke hearts, ricotta salata, and eggplant to pasta salad.

7) Slice pepperoni into thin strips about one inch long. Add to pasta salad.

8) Mix pasta salad well. Season to taste with additional salt if necessary.

9) Sprinkle pasta salad with arugala just before serving.

Breaking Passover at La Pizza Fresca

la-pizza-fresca-hasaki-0021Despite the fact that not a ONE of you contributed to where I should eat on Passover, I decided on La Pizza Fresca due to the rave reviews I found on Menupages. And though an $18 pasta dish is a little rich for me at the moment, by the looks of the place I figured I wouldn’t be disappointed.

My friends Sarah, Leora, and I arrived at La Pizza Fresca a little before 8pm thinking that we would be seated just in time to officially break Passover at 8:30pm. Suprisingly, we found the restaurant was still half-empty around 8pm but quickly filled up soon after we’d sat down. After a few attempts at catching the attention of our waiter, we finally got to ordering three glasses of their $13 White Wine Blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon, and Trebbiano. Since there were only two white wines to choose from (one of which was $8 and unappealing) we decided to splurge for the good stuff, which proved to be quite tasty and a large pour! Now onto the main course…

I gave the menu a quick once over though I already knew exactly what I wanted… The Rigatoni ala Siciliana.

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But it was fun listening to Sarah and Leora converse over their orders. Sarah, being a BIG pizza connoisseur, naturally wanted an excuse to have La Pizza Fresca’s pizza, once again! Though at one point her and Leora were very close to ordering the special Gnocchi made with asparagus and morels (woody mushrooms) they essentially wanted to eliminate the morels which I explained would compromise the flavor of the dish. Now, I am someone who is constantly asking for substitutions, but THIS dish should not be tampered with! So after all that they ended up with Margherita and Fresca pizzas.

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Though the food looked, smelled, and tasted very good, I couldn’t help thinking how small my $18 pasta dish was. I wonder what the half order looked like! Needless to say I was STARVING after eating my 8 rigatonis and 8 eggplant bits. Yes, the rigatoni was delicious and cooked perfectly and the sauce was as satisfying as whipped cream on an ice cream sundae but WHERE WAS THE REST OF IT?

I didn’t try the pizza though Sarah and Leora both enjoyed it. Would I go back, NO!!!! There are too many better priced Italian restaurants that serve excellent pizza and pasta and I haven’t even been to most of them yet. So I think it’s safe to cross La Pizza Fresca off of your list of NYC Italian Restaurants to try. Unfortunately they are overpriced, serve tiny portions, and have sweet french bread. Now who wants sweet bread as an appetizer?