By Allison Arevalo | Photos by Denise Woodward
My father, Richard Lanzilotta, was the chef of the house. He grew up on Long Island, right next to JFK airport, and learned to cook by watching his mother and grandmothers prepare meals for their big extended family. Every meal he made, even on weeknights, would have courses: the antipasti with anchovies and sausage, the pasta, the salad.
Dad’s red pepper sauce was one of his specialties. Creamy, sweet, and spicy all at the same time, it was everyone’s favorite. Our friends from the block all wanted to eat over when he was cooking it.
I tinker with his recipe a bit whenever I make it, but it never quite comes out like Dad’s. One difference is that I use Rustichella D’Abruzzo’s cannolicchi—a short, twisted tube pasta named after the razor clam, and there wasn’t anything quite like that at our market, so Dad used penne. In fact, any hollow tube that will hold the sauce can work.
Recently, both my parents flew out from New York for a visit. They were here for Pasta Friday, so I was able to show them how I’ve continued the traditions passed down through so many generations of our family.
1 pound cannolicchi
3 pounds red bell peppers, roasted, skins and seeds removed
1 pint heavy cream
1 stick butter
1 head garlic, roasted and squeezed into a bowl
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground Calabrian chili
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Red pepper flakes
Purée roasted peppers with the heavy cream in a blender, working in batches if necessary.
Melt butter in a large pot (like a Dutch oven) on low heat. Whisk 1 tablespoon of the roasted garlic into the butter. (Use the leftover garlic to spread on some bread!) Add the puréed peppers to the butter and stir. Then add smoked paprika, ground chili, and 1 teaspoon salt.
Let the sauce simmer on low for about 10–15 minutes, stirring occasionally, and tasting for salt level.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and then the pasta. Cook until pasta is slightly harder than al dente, then drain.
Add the pasta into the pot with the sauce, and gently stir. Serve with freshly grated cheese and red chili flakes.