Here the strong flavors of southern Italy are blended together to form a surprisingly mellow dish. In keeping with southern style, I like using meat sparingly - -more as an accent flavor than a main ingredient. Capocollo is a lightly aged cured pork usually flavored with white wine and nutmeg. It's available at Italian markets, specialty food stores, and some supermarkets. If you can't find it, an excellent substitute is prosciutto di Parma, which will lend an even gentler taste to your finished dish.
Heat the oven to 425°F. Lightly coat a large, shallow baking dish with olive oil. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Roast the peppers by turning them over the flame of a gas burner until the skins are charred or by putting them under a broiler, turning until all sides are well blistered. Peel off the skins, core and seed the peppers, and cut the flesh into thin strips.
In a large skillet, heat about 3 Tbs. olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to soften. Add the peppers, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the thyme and capocollo. Mix and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, cream, nutmeg, and orange zest. Season with salt and pepper and whisk until smooth (you can do this in a food processor if you like).
Cook the cavatappi until al dente. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, toss the grated Pecorino with the breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper and add a drizzle of olive oil. Mix well.
Drain the pasta well and return it to the pot. Add the pepper mixture and toss. Add the ricotta mixture and toss again, tasting for seasoning. Pour the pasta into the baking dish. Top with an even coating of the breadcrumb mixture and a drizzle of fresh olive oil. Bake uncovered until browned and bubbling, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve right away.
nutrition information (per serving):
based on four servings;
sat fat g
Photo: Scott Phillips