Italian Pastahead

Pungent Pastahead

Fiery Foods Manager In the Kitchen with Chile Peppers Leave a Comment

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by Dave DeWitt

Italian Pastahead



Green Chile Pasta

Red Chile Noodles

Habanero Lasagne

Upscale Mean Mac

Spicy Rasta Pasta with Chicken and Hot Chiles

Spicy Marinara Sauce

Blue Corn Fettuccine with Chorizo and Smoked Chicken in Ancho Chile Sauce

Mrs. Paletta’s Angry Rabbit (Coniglio All’Arrabbitata)


Pastahead in a shop in Umbria, Italy

With chile peppers and fiery-foods rapidly entering the mainstream, it makes perfectly logical sense that they would invade the Principality of Pasta. After all, pasta is a favorite food all over the world because it is flavorful, sometimes quick and always nutritious. And with all the gourmet products out there these days, there are many ways to add some pungency to your pasta. Here are some of my favorite hurry up pasta techniques.

  • Buy some chile-flavored pasta at your favorite gourmet shop, cook it up, sprinkle olive oil over the drained pasta, and top with a grated chile cheese of choice.

  • Purchase a high quality marinara sauce and heat it up in a pan on the stove. Cook some fusilli pasta in a pot. To the marinara sauce, add your favorite chile powder, hot sauce, or even salsa.

  • Why not classic macaroni and cheese but use several chile cheeses?

  • Ravioli, stuffed with green chile, and topped with a red chile cream sauce—yum!

  • Spaghetti with chorizo meatballs tastes good to me!

  • Try frying up rings of both sweet and hot peppers in olive oil, then using them to top penne pasta, with a little pecorino romano grated over all of it.

  • Take your favorite pasta sauce recipe and add some ancho chile powder to it for a mildly spiced, slightly fruity flavor.

  • Make a classic basil pesto, add some pureed serrano chiles to it, and use as a topping for fettucine.

  • Make a thick orzo soup and spice it up with Italian peperoncinos.

  • For the true pungent pastahead, take a chile pasta, top with an habanero-spiked pasta sauce, and top with habanero pepper jack cheese. Overkill? Nah!

Okay, okay, enough casual suggestions. It’s time now for some real recipes.

Green Chile Pasta

Green chile pasta has been popular in the Southwest for many years. It is surprisingly easy to make, and even easier to eat. Just remember that if you are using fresh or canned green chiles, it is necessary to remove all of the liquid, or the excess liquid will interfere with the water measurement.

  • 1/4 cup drained green chile finely minced or processed in food processor to a paste consistency
    3 tablespoons green chile powder

  • 2 cups flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Using a small, heavy skillet, dry saute the green chile over a low heat until the moisture has evaporated. Allow the chile to cool before it is added to the remaining ingredients.

Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of the food processor and process until the mixture begins to form a ball, adding more water drop by drop if the dough is too dry. The dough should be firm, but not sticky. Blend the dough for 15 seconds more to knead it.

Roll out the dough until it is very thin. Cut the dough into the desired shape. Separate the dough, allow it to dry, and cook it in boiling, salted water for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain the pasta and serve it with your favorite sauce.

Yield: 3 to 4 servings

Heat Scale: Mild

Red Chile Noodles

This homemade pasta is excellent–as it should be since it comes from Adelina Willem, who makes spicy pastas in Las Cruces, New Mexico. To make other chile pastas, simply change the size of the noodles. If you are making them a day ahead of time, store them in the refrigerator.

  • 3 tablespoons hot red New Mexican chile powder

  • 3 cups semolina flour (available in gourmet shops and health food stores)

  • 2 large eggs, beaten lightly

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix the chile powder and semolina flour together. Make a well in the middle and place the eggs and olive oil in it.

Mix with your hands and then knead for 10 minutes. Cover the dough, and let it sit for ½ hour.

Using a rolling pin, roll the dough very thin (1/32 inch or less). Cut into 1/2 inch wide strips.

Cook the noodles in boiling salted water for 1 to 2 minutes–no more. Drain, place on a kitchen towel, and cover with plastic wrap until you are ready to use them in your recipe.

Yield: About ½ to 3/4 of a pound of noodles

Heat Scale: Mild

Habanero Lasagne

This is not a lasagne to be taken lightly as it has with the robust flavor of habaneros and black olives–a real taste combination. As you bite into this luscious layered delight, you are temporarily lulled into the garlic-infused sauce when all of a sudden, the habanero layer hits your mouth and then it melds with the taste of the tomato and the vegetables. This recipe requires 3 days of prior preparation–marinating the olives and peppers, and then some steaming and shuffling on the day of preparation. But, making good lasagne has never been easy, or neat. Note: This recipe requires advanced preparation.

  • 1 16-ounce can of whole black olives, drained and rinsed, and thinly sliced

  • 3 habanero chiles, seeds and stem removed, minced

  • ½ cup white wine

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 cup chopped onion

  • 1/4 cup grated carrots

  • ½ cup finely diced celery

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 8 ripe tomatoes (2 pounds) peeled, seeded, and chopped; or substitute 1 28-ounce can of whole tomatoes, crushed.

  • 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, rehydrated in white wine, then finely chopped

  • 1 8-ounce can of tomato paste

  • 2 tablespoons chopped dried basil or 4 tablespoons fresh

  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano or 4 tablespoons fresh, chopped

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

  • ½ teaspoon crushed rosemary

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

  • 2 cups vegetable stock

  • 1 or 2 frozen packages artichoke hearts, cooked
    or substitute 4 fresh zucchini, peeled, sliced horizontally, and steamed for 1 minute

  • 1 bunch fresh spinach, cleaned and steamed for 1 minute

  • 1 pound lowfat ricotta cheese

  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

  • 1 cup shredded low fat mozzarella cheese

  • 1 pound cooked lasagne noodles

Combine the black olives and the habanero chiles in a glass jar with the white wine. Place the jar in the refrigerator for 3 days, and, once a day, turn the jar upside down and shake gently.

In a large, heavy Dutch oven-type casserole, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Then add the tomatoes, the sun-dried rehydrated tomatoes, and the tomato paste and mix thoroughly.

Bring the tomato mixture to a low boil and add the basil, oregano, bay leaf, parsley, rosemary, sugar, balsamic vinegar, and 1 cup of the rich stock. (Reserve the second cup of stock to use for thinning, if needed, later on in the cooking.) Cover and simmer the mixture for at least one hour, stirring occasionally. If the mixture becomes too thick, thin with the reserved stock.

Remove the bay leaf from the tomato sauce and discard. Spread ½ cup of the tomato sauce in a 13 by 9 inch baking dish. Place some cooked lasagne noodles on top of the sauce. Thoroughly drain the olive-habanero mixture, and spread 1/3 of it over the noodles. Top the olive mixture with 1/3 of the sliced artichokes (or zucchinis), and 1/3 of the steamed spinach leaves. Mix the three cheeses together and spread 1/3 of this mixture over the spinach.

Pour 1 cup of the tomato sauce over this mixture, and then cover with more lasagne noodles. Repeat the whole process for two more layers, ending with the noodles and topping off with the tomato sauce.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. (Or, cover and refrigerate and bake later; just allow the dish to reach room temperature before baking.)

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Heat Scale: Hot

Upscale Mean Mac

The variety of cheeses in this upscale and tasty dish make it dangerously delicious! The chiles in the dish, as well as the flavored pasta, add a subtle punch and contrasts nicely with the cheeses and the herbs.

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 pound flavored pasta, such as green or red chile

  • ½ pound mascarpone cheese, softened

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground white pepper

  • ½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

  • 4 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

  • ½ pound fontina cheese, cut into small cubes (1/4 inch)

  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

  • 1 habanero chile, seeds and stem removed, minced or substitute 3 serrano chiles

  • 1/4 cup minced Italian parsley

  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon dried savory

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 4 to 5 cups mixed greens, such as Boston Bibb lettuce, endive, or escarole

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the salt and the olive oil. Add the dry pasta and cook according to the manufacturer’s directions. Drain thoroughly and place the pasta in a large bowl lined with paper towels.

Mix the mascarpone, the olive oil, and the ground peppers together in a small bowl. Remove the towels from the pasta and mix in the mascarpone. Then, add the gorgonzola, fontina, parmesan, chile, parsley, thyme, oregano, savory, and salt and toss the mixture lightly. Microwave the mixture on low for 2 minutes to warm it up.

Arrange a bed of mixed greens on each plate and mound the pasta-cheese mixture on top. Serve immediately.

Yield: 8 servings

Heat Scale: Medium

Spicy Rasta Pasta with Chicken and Hot Chiles

Originally served at the restaurant Barbacoa in Newport Beach, California, this pasta has the flavors of the Caribbean.

  • 12 ounces assorted color peparodelle pasta (wide cut noodles)

  • 1 ½ pounds skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/4 inch by 4 inch strips

  • 2 tablespoons jerk seasoning

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

  • 1 cup diced tomatoes

  • 1/2 pound zucchini and yellow squash (cut very thin lengthwise)

  • 2 cups Spicy Marinara Sauce (see following recipe)

  • 1 habanero chile, stem and seeds removed, minced

  • 1 cup chicken broth

  • ½ cup white wine

  • Chopped cilantro for garnish

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water with a little olive oil until cooked, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Dust the chicken with the jerk seasoning spice and saute in the olive oil in a large frying pan for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes, squash and saute for an additional minute. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the cilantro, and boil for 1 minute.

Mix the pasta with the chicken sauce, garnish with the cilantro and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

Heat Scale: Medium

Spicy Marinara Sauce

  • ½ teaspoon crushed hot dried red chile, such as piquin

  • 1 small white onion, diced

  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced

  • 1 tablespoon dried basil

  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • 6 ounces tomato paste

  • 3/4 pound whole tomatoes, peeled and chopped

  • 1 teaspoon white pepper

  • Salt to taste

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

In a pan, saute the chile, onion, garlic, basil, and oregano in the oil until soft. Add the tomato paste and whole tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.

Place the sauce in a blender and blend for 30 seconds. Add salt to taste.

Chill the sauce and add the fresh basil.

Heat Scale: Mild

Blue Corn Fettuccine with Chorizo and Smoked Chicken in Ancho Chile Sauce

This recipe was served at the Spoon River Charcuterie in Charlotte, North Carolina. At Spoon River, John Wysor, says, “We smoke our own bacon and chicken, and we make about five kinds of chorizo, including a chorizo borracho, made with Jose Cuervo Tequila, that we use in this dish. Any flavorful Mexican-style sausage will be wonderful, however, and smoked turkey can be used in place of the chicken.”

  • 10 ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed

  • 1/4 pound smoked slab bacon

  • 1 12-ounce package blue corn fettuccine

  • 1 ½ cups chopped onions

  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1/4 cup tequila

  • 3 cups chicken stock or water

  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes

  • ½ pound Mexican-style chorizo, in links

  • ½ pound smoked chicken meat, chopped or shredded

  • 1 or 2 cups grated queso blanco or Monterey Jack cheese

Place the anchos on a baking sheet in a 200 degree oven for about five minutes until you can smell them roasting. Take care that they do not burn.

Saute the bacon in a saucepan over medium heat until it renders some of its fat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are soft. Add the cumin and oregano and cook for three minutes, stirring. Add the tequila and the stock or water and bring to a simmer. Add the roasted ancho chiles, remove from the heat, and steep for five or ten minutes. Cut the tomatoes in half and roast them in a heavy skillet, cut side down, over medium heat, until blackened.

Puree the ancho mixture with the tomatoes in a blender or food processor until quite smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender and adding more liquid as needed. Return to the sauce pan and simmer for about ½ hour. The sauce should be smooth but not too thick. Add more liquid as needed.

Add the chorizo, taking care not to boil the sauce at this point, lest the sausage burst. Simmer about twelve to fifteen minutes, remove the sausage, slice it, and return it to the sauce, along with the smoked chicken, and simmer 5 to 10 minutes more.

Cook the pasta according to the instructions, drain it, and divide it between four plates. Ladle the sauce on top and garnish with the grated cheese.

Yield: 6 servings

Heat Scale: Medium

Mrs. Paletta’s Angry Rabbit (Coniglio All’Arrabbitata)

This dish sounds like a belligerent and problematic pet but, in actual fact, it’s a traditional, delicious and spicy Italian dish from the Umbrian country-side.

  • Olive oil

  • 1 young rabbit (or substitute half a chicken)

  • 2 medium onions, peeled, chopped

  • ½ cup chopped mint

  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, and chopped

  • 2 tablespoons minced rosemary

  • 2 peperoncinos, seeds and stems removed, minced or substitute serrano chiles

  • 2 cups white wine

  • 1 cup tomato sauce, and more if necessary

  • Cooked pasta of choice

  • Parmesan cheese

Coat a roasting pan with olive oil. Add the rabbit and all the other ingredients except the tomato sauce and the pasta. Make sure that the rabbit is covered by the liquid, adding more wine if necessary.. Roast at 275 degrees F. for 30 minutes, until browned. Add the tomato sauce and continue cooking for 1 hour. Remove the meat from the bones, return to the sauce, and heat the mixture in a pan. Serve over the pasta with lots of hand-torn peasant bread.

Yield: 3 to 4 servings

Heat Scale: Medium

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Photo and Rabbit Recipe by Paul Ross


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