Pepper Up That Pasta, Boy: Pebronata

When Provence was all the rage ten or fifteen years ago, thousands of foreigners (meaning anyone not from the individual villages) flocked there to set up home. They learned to cook Provençal food, they learned to drink Provençal drinks, but they didn't learn to speak Provençal, and as a result foods are usually labeled resolutely in French only.


Pebronata is a Provençal word meaning “peppered up”. It refers to anything that has a bunch of bell peppers in it (particularly red bell peppers, the sweet treat of Provençal vegetables). This week's recipe is a late-summer sauce that can be used to top pieces of grilled bread, that can be used as a dip for crudités (raw vegetables), as a thick topping for grilled sausages stuffed into baguette or, as in this case, served hot and tossed with pasta.
The picture, incidentally, shows that the dish is really more about the sauce than the pasta; by Italian standards, it is woefully oversauced. If you ask a Provençal, though, you'll get the French shrug (hands upturned, bottom lip stuck out, one shoulder raised higher than the other, and a “what do you want me to do about it?” look).
Try to use thin eggplants; the fat, bulbous eggplants we all grew up with are bitter, woody and don't taste as good in this recipe as the European or Asian varieties.

2 Italian or Japanese eggplants
2 green bell peppers
2 yellow bell peppers
2 red bell peppers
1 large red onion, in small dice
1/2 cup olive oil
8 good tomatoes, chopped
1 22 oz. can tomato purée
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/4 cup basil, chopped
1/4 cup marjoram, chopped
salt and pepper
1. Cut the eggplants into 1 inch pieces, skin, pips and all.
2. Remove the pods and white pith from the bell peppers and slice each one into julienne.
3. Over medium-high heat, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil.
4. When hot, sauté the eggplant and onion until the eggplant is soft, 8-10 minutes.
5. Remove to a small bowl.
6. In the same pan used for the eggplant, heat the other 1/4 cup of olive oil.
7. Sauté the bell peppers until soft, 8-10 minutes.
8. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
9. Add the tomato purée, the eggplant-onion mixture and the vinegar, stir, and simmer for 5 minutes.
10. Salt and pepper to taste, add the herbs and simmer 5 minutes.
11. Serve over linguine or other pasta that's long and not hollow (in this case, trofiette). Soft chèvre (goat cheese) is a great accompaniment.

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