Chilli-powered tagliatelle

One of the enduring charms of Italian cooking is its capacity to provide a basic tune upon which any musician can create a symphony. Add this recipe to your collection of great cooking staples.

By David Basckin
January 11, 2017 10:58 am

To make tagliatelle with roasted tomatoes, pesto and chillies for four diners, you will need:

  • 500g tagliatelle pasta
  • A punnet of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 big red chillies
  • 20ml balsamic vinegar
  • 30ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 100g rocket
  • 200g Parmesan cheese

For the pesto:

  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • 60g pine or macadamia nuts
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 150ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Let’s start with the pesto. This is a trusty friend in the fridge, ready to rev up a basic pasta meal. You can, of course, buy the commercial product but we’re cooks, aren’t we?

Let’s make it ourselves. The benefits will be price, freshness and no mystery additives.

Pick the fresh basil leaves from the stems, remove anything that moves of its own volition, rinse and shake or spin-dry.

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Peel the garlic. Place the basil leaves, garlic cloves, pine or macadamia nuts, 150ml olive oil, a generous pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper in a blender. Reduce to a paste.

Taste. If the sauce is too thin, add more basil. Bottle the pesto, which will last a couple of days under refrigeration.

Time to nuke the cherry tomatoes. Cut each in half and arrange cut side up on a baking sheet. Delicately dispense a drop of balsamic vinegar on each tomato hemisphere, then stick the sheet into a preheated oven at 160°C for 20 to 30 minutes. Inspect from time to time to avoid burning.

While this is going on, bring 2ℓ of lightly salted water to a rolling boil in a large saucepan. Add the pasta and cook for as long as it says on the packet.

During this interlude, remove – or if you like a veld fire in the mouth, retain – the chilli pips. Chop the chillies coarsely. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan, then fry the chillies for two minutes.

Remove and reserve for later in the action-packed proceedings.

Drain the cooked pasta into a large mixing bowl or server. Pour in the chillies, add the roasted tomatoes and any juices on the baking pan, and mix in the rocket.

The passive cooking heat of the pasta will lightly wilt the rocket, releasing flavour while retaining colour.

Garnish with grated Parmesan, then gently toss the contents of the bowl to evenly distribute the flavours.

Season with salt and black pepper, and serve this mouthwatering creation either as a main dish, or as second fiddle to the freshly grilled meat of your choice. Delizioso!

David Basckin is a freelance journalist and videographer.