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Bucatini with roasted red pepper sauce and zucchini

When Summer arrives, my husband asks me to cook spaghetti con la crema di peperoni arrostiti – spaghetti with roasted pepper sauce, one of his favorites dishes. Even though it is a simple pasta recipe, results vary depending on the quality of ingredients one chooses.

I would never cook it during Winter or Fall since peppers are not as sweet and tasty as they are during Summer time. Moreover, I would never use any type of heavy cream, since it covers the real flavors of food. Most Italians I know are not fond of heavy cream, specially when cooking Summer recipes. To get a creamy consistency, I usually blend extra virgin olive oil with any type of aged cheese, such as Pecorino, Grana Padano, or Parmigiano Reggiano.

This time I am making some changes to this recipe:

    • I am adding zucchini not only because I love them, but also because I got them from my mother in law, who grows vegetables in her country house in Umbria, and I thought they will pair well with my red pepper sauce.
    • I am using Bucatini instead of spaghetti. Another important thing to take into account when cooking pasta, is the quality of pasta itself. Last Sunday, we were visiting the Tuscan countryside and  stopped at Tenuta La Parrina (, a farm where tourists can board, buy or eat local produce. At the store, I found Bucatini pasta, which is a hollow version of spaghetti, commonly used in typical Roman dishes such as Amatriciana, Carbonara, and Cacio e Pepe. These Bucatini were made using a method called trafilatura in bronzo, a process where the dough is passed through a trafilatrice, a pasta making machine, that determines the pasta shape. If the trafila (die) is made of bronze, the pasta produced will have a rough texture, allowing sauces to cling to it.
    • Instead of using classic basil, I am adding with two types of herbs: oregano and erba pepe (literally traduced as pepper herb), an herb similar to the taste of a mixture of marjoram and thyme.

Here’s the recipe:


    • 2 big sweet red peppers
    • 2 tablespoons of grated Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese.
    • 350 grams (12 ounces) of Bucatini pasta
    • 2 sprigs of fresh oregano
    • 2 sprigs of erba pepe (you can use thyme or marjoram instead)
    • 3 medium size zucchini (thinly sliced)
    • 5 tablespoons of olive oil
    • salt and pepper to taste

I used a mandolin to slice zucchini thinly. This is important since zucchini have to crumble when cooked so they blend well with the pepper sauce and pasta.

Bucatini pasta from Tenuta La Parrina.


Preheat oven  to 200° C (400 °F) for 15 minutes. Place red peppers and broil for about 30 minutes or until skins are blackened.

Transfer peppers to plastic wrap or bag. Close the bag or seal with plastic wrap, and let peppers steam and cool.

Unwrap peppers. Pull off and discard skins. This step can be done under running water.

This is erba pepe, the strange herb that tastes like marjoram and thyme.

Blend peppers, 3 tablespoons  of extra virgin olive oil, and 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

The pepper sauce will have a creamy consistency due to combining extra virgin olive oil with Parmigiano Reggiano, so there is no need to add heavy cream. Try the sauce before adding salt since Parmigiano Reggiano cheese has already salt, and then add salt and pepper to taste.

Heat a skillet with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and saute zucchini until slightly crumbled and golden. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Lightly saute some zucchini slices for garnish. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile bring a pot with water to a boil. When boiling, add coarse salt, and cook pasta following package instructions.


Drain pasta and transfer it to the skillet (over very low heat). Add red pepper sauce, zucchini, and herbs.

Blend all ingredients.

As said before, extra virgin olive oil and Parmigiano Regiano cheese – over low heat – form a creamy consistency.

Before plating,  arrange zucchini slices on a plate as if they were flower petals.

In a recent post, Spaghetti with tomatoes, basil and pecorino romano,  a lot of people have asked me to include pictures of making pasta nests. Therefore, to please my foddie fellows, here I go.

Pasta nests procedure:

To form a pasta nest, use a fork with long enough tines and hold it perpendicular over the skillet.

Twirl and grab as much pasta as you can. Carefully transfer pasta to a soup ladle and twirl to form a nest.

While transferring pasta to the plate, continue twirling slowly to prevent pasta from falling down from the ladle.

Gently and slowly place the nest on a plate. Never stop twirling!!!

Finish by placing some zucchini (which are difficult to grab with the fork) left on the skillet. Add an oregano sprig on top of the nest.

Serves 4.


20 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ah to be able to get Bucatini! What a beautiful dish. Thanks for the tips on the nests too.

    June 24, 2011
    • Bucatini is an easy format to find I guess. If you can get Barilla, I am sure you will be able to find Bucatini in the US supermarkets!

      June 24, 2011
  2. This is soooo impressive. You are clearly a very talented cook, not only with the recipes but also with the presentation and photography. Had never heard of erba pepe. Will have to ask my cousin to send me seeds! And here in Spain they are the same about the creamy sauces (also the cream is all long life, so not very nice). Will definitely give this sauce a go, it sounds wonderful.

    June 24, 2011
    • Erba pepe, also called erba pepina or erba peperina is an herb type supposed to resemble the taste of pepper, that is, it substitutes pepper in recipes. It does have a peppery taste but it also reminded me the taste of thyme and marjoram. It is not common in Italy. To get it, I had to go to a garden center (Vivaio).

      June 24, 2011
    • Forgot to thank you for your compliment!!!! THANKS!!

      June 24, 2011
  3. This looks wonderful and I’m definitely going to try it soon when we have red peppers in the garden. Delicious! And I feel the same about cream sauces – I’d much rather use olive oil and cheese. I’m just going to subscribe to your blog so I don’t miss any of your posts.

    June 30, 2011
    • Thank you very much!! And I am going to subscribe to yours too!!!

      June 30, 2011
  4. I’ve just waxed lyrical on your last recipe and here you go again. Terrific flavours and wonderful ethic behind your food. I also envy the Braun whizzer.

    July 8, 2011
    • Thank you! Did you cook the eggplant parmesan?

      July 8, 2011
  5. So happy to have found your beautiful blog. And the timing couldn’t be better. We roasted red peppers last night and your recipe will be a wonderful way to use some of them.

    July 8, 2011
    • Thank you very much! I am delighted to hear that my site was an inspiration for you!!

      July 9, 2011
  6. I found your blog the other day and I’m so excited to try some of your recipes. I love roasted peppers and can’t wait to try this dish, it’s so healthy! The presentation is so beautiful too!

    July 12, 2011
    • Thank you very much!!! I am pleased you liked it!!

      July 12, 2011
  7. Dakota #

    Thanks for the comment on my blog – Oh I recall now, that you’re writing from Rome! 🙂 I love your entries about food here! I was in Rome not too long ago, and still have a lot of photos to share from the city! 🙂

    July 12, 2011
    • Thank you very much for your comments on my food!!! Wow! I’ll be curious to see your photos from the Eternal City!!

      July 12, 2011
  8. Thank you for all the wonderful to make nests, the amazing sauce and the wonderful idea of using olive oil and cheese instead of cream..
    I can’t wait to try them all

    September 4, 2011

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