This recipe involves two pans, the contents of which you will combine. It is thus quite helpful to have two people cooking, such that there is always someone available to stir when necessary. It's also much nicer to cook with someone, since then you can gossip about whoever's in the other room and say "NOTHING!" in ringing unison when said person gets suspicious and comes in to ask what you're talking about. I would also recommend a spicy red wine, such as a shiraz or a zinfandel (not white zinfandel! Real red zinfandel). Drink while cooking! There's nothing more aesthetically pleasing than wine glasses with flour clinging to them.
This is a heavy cream sauce, but you can always make it with milk if you see fit. I personally think the cream gives it a much better flavor. However, the heaviness does make it difficult to eat as much as you want. And you will want LOTS.
Butter, approx 4 tbsp.
Flour, approx 2 tbsp.
Cream, approx 2 cups. I have used a whole pint of cream in the past. I use half and half, since that's generally in the house, but whipping cream (unwhipped!) works too.
Parmesan or romano cheese, lots, grated fine. USE REAL CHEESE.
A wire whisk. You MUST have a whisk. Go buy one.
2 red peppers, roasted and diced.
Garlic, at least 3 or 4 cloves, minced.
Olive oil, enough to sauté things.
Marsala, a couple splashes.
Tomato sauce, approx 2 cups.
Fresh tomatoes, if you so desire.
Basil, oregano, black pepper and salt.
Optional: artichoke hearts, drained and chopped, or good mushrooms.
I really, really don't measure much while making this, so use your judgement.
If you are roasting your own peppers, start them first--they may take a while. Cut them in half, remove seeds and stems, and place in a lightly oiled baking pan. Roast at 350 degrees, until the skins blacken, approx 1 hour. I often get too impatient and take them out before things are thoroughly black. Try not to do this. Blackened skins will slip right off; slip them off and throw them away. If you are using roast peppers from a jar, more power to you. Anyway, when you have roast peppers available, dice them.
I try to make the two sauces at the same time, but if you need to make one first, make it the red sauce. It can simmer while you whisk the white sauce. However, the white sauce comes first in my head, so I'm listing it first. Hell, you can just make one sauce, if you want; these can each stand on their own.
Melt butter over low heat in a deep 3 quart pan. Add the flour and whisk until you have a nice, bubbly roux. Add the cream. Whisk this mixture constantly. The roux will blend with the cream and act as a thickening agent; eventually your sauce will thicken and acquire a satiny texture. Once the cream is hot, but not boiling--do not let it boil!--start to whisk in your grated cheese. Add a little at a time and whisk until each handful is fully melted in. Parmesan will give you a slightly milder flavor than romano, but either work just fine. Use lots of cheese; you like cheese, don't you? Keep adding cheese and whisking until you are satisfied both with the amount of cheese and the texture of the sauce. (P.S.: If you are using this sauce alone, garnish with freshly ground black pepper. SO good.)
This one does not require so much wrist work. Sauté minced garlic in olive oil until aromatic. Add your red peppers, tomatoes, and whatever other vegetables you might want. I tend to keep things simple in terms of vegetables; there are already a whole bunch of flavors going on here. Just keep in mind that the red peppers are the main point of the sauce. That said, artichoke hearts are excellent in this sauce. I have not tried mushrooms, due to mushroom-hating roommates, but I think they would also be really good. Just don't add both of these, ok? So. Sauté until all is soft and good, then add tomato sauce, a couple splashes of Marsala (this will make it smell Really good, among other things) and spices to taste. Leave on a low simmer, stirring occasionally.
When both your sauces are done, simply pour one into the other and mix. Serve over pasta with freshly ground black pepper. I like to use a short, textured pasta, such as penne, rotini, or radiatore, but fettuccine also works well. Eat with a green salad--spinach or mesclun mix with vinaigrette is a nice contrast--a hunk of italian bread, and another glass of wine. Yay!