Romesco Pasta With Buttered Herb Breadcrumbs
How to smoke whole tomatoes + Best Homemade Pangrattato
Today, I have a delicious, comforting pasta recipe that is inspired by both Spain and Italy. Silky strands of pasta hugged by a gorgeous Romesco sauce topped with a flavour explosion of crispy pangrattato - buttery, herby breadcrumbs! (Downloadable and printable recipes below)
Romesco sauce is a textural red pepper and tomato sauce with a slightly sweet and spicy flavour heightened by a delicious smokiness that comes from charring the vegetables.
Originating from the Catalonia region of Spain, romesco sauce was invented by the local fishermen to serve alongside the day’s catch. Often served with grilled seafood or vegetables, I have actually discovered that my favourite use for it is, as a pasta sauce.
The traditional recipe has a base of fire-roasted red peppers, charred tomatoes, garlic, onion, stale bread and spices. Typically, it isn't spicy. Though there are variations that can include nora chillies which hail from the Valencia region of Guardamar. Nora chillies are very popular in Spain and are mostly sold in powder form called pimenton, which is simply Spanish for paprika. Prized for its mild spice factor and beautiful, deep red colour.
When you can’t find these chillies (let’s be honest, outside of Spain where can you really find something so specific unless at an expensive speciality store?), you can substitute them with sweet paprika, Aleppo pepper (a key ingredient of the Syrian Muhammara), Italian Calabrian chillies or just plain old red chilli flakes from your supermarket. These stock standard red chilli flakes that are widely available are actually red cayenne chillies that have a mild-medium heat range and are very versatile to give your dish a bit of a lift.
Smoking Whole Tomatoes
We have all at some point in our lives, smoked an eggplant (hello, Baba Ghanoush!). If you follow that trend, all nightshades (tomato, peppers, potatoes, eggplant) can be smoked and charred on an open fire with amazing results.
I am a huge fan of fire-roasting capsicum, but when I first fire-roasted a whole tomato for a salsa during the great lockdown of 2020, it changed my life. And if you don’t have access to an open fire (like me!), then invest in a little camp stove or just grill in the oven until beautifully smoky. The only thing to remember is to keep the skin on and keep the vegetable whole. My recipe shows you how, along with the best substitutes to use from your pantry instead.
My favourite Pangrattato & What Best Pasta Shapes To Use.
I love the word. It means “breadcrumbs” in Italian. Pangrattato is also sometimes referred to as “poor man’s parmesan”. I discovered the concept of the poor man’s parmesan when we first moved to Australia. In a little supermarket in Neutral Bay, I found a tiny jar of what looked like breadcrumbs, mottled with green flecks of herbs. It was a local, handmade product and the jar’s label had a scrawl “poor man’s parmesan”.