Sant’Erasmo, a small island in Italy’s Venetian lagoon, is known by the locals as the “vegetable garden of Venice.” Thanks to the unique characteristics of its sand-and-clay soil, the prized produce cultivated there is particularly toothsome. From Sant’Erasmo come some of the most extraordinary intensely flavored sweet peppers that we have ever tasted. There is only a small window of opportunity in which they are available, and we were lucky enough to find them one year when we were conducting a cooking course in Verona. We used them for our risotto class, where the intensely flavorful peppers enhanced the creamy rice dish. You don’t need to take a flight to Venice, however, to enjoy this pasta sauce, spiked with red and yellow bell peppers and a luscious helping of butter. Whether you grow your own peppers or get them from your local farmers’ market, this dish will be a delicious remembrance of summer. It is one of our daughter Gabriella’s favorites, and we often make a whole meal of it followed by a salad.
Our students have asked if peeling the peppers really makes a difference. The answer is yes: the skin of even a sweet red pepper is bitter, not to mention tough. Without their skin, the peppers will be sweeter and more richly flavored. Here’s an easy way to peel peppers if you haven’t done it before.