There is a splendid marriage of the singular flavor of caramel (from two different roasted vegetables) and fresh herbs in this colorful salad. Make this very easy for yourself and prepare both the roasted peppers and onions in advance. In fact, the pesto is a make-ahead too. For the best flavor and most vibrant colors, and there are a lot of lovely ones here, assemble it before serving.
2 red onions
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ pound mezzi rigatoni (half the size of the regular)
3 red bell peppers, roasted, skinned, seeded, cored, and cut into strips
Parlsey Pesto (recipe below)
½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Preheat the ocean to 400 degrees F.
Peel, trim and slice the onions crosswise into ¼-inch-thick rings. Separate the rings, put in a bowl, and add the oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat. Spread the onions in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, or until the edges start to brown and crisp. Let cool on the baking sheet.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, stir to separate, and cook over high heat for 10 minutes, until al dente. (Or follow the cooking directions on the package.) Drain the pasta in a colander. To prevent the pasta from sticking together, spread it out on a large baking sheet or platter and let it cool, about 15 minutes. Cover and hold at room temperature for up to 3 hours.
Turn the pasta into a large serving bowl. Add the pesto, the pepper strips, roasted red onion rings, and cheese and toss well to combine. Best served within 1 hour of finishing.
P A R S L E Y P E S T O
This can be used in countless ways, and unlike Classic Pesto it can be made year-round because of the availability of parsley. We like this best on sandwiches and panini. The variation with capers is tasty with turkey or pork, in particular.
2 cups packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons walnuts
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Wash and pat the parsley leaves dry. Peel and trim the garlic.
Put the parsley, garlic, walnuts, salt, and pepper in a food processor and process until finely chopped. With the motor running, pour the olive oil through the feed tube into the machine in a slow stream, and blend to a smooth emulsion.
Transfer the pesto to a serving bowl. Keep covered in a container in the refrigerator for 1 week.