Two weeks ago I was on a week-long trip to San Francisco for a work conference and found Roasted Bell Pepper with Mozzarella and Asiago in Spicy Tomato Cream in a wonderful neighbourhood restaurant in North Beach. This restaurant is an absolute favourite of a good friend, he has been recommending I go for several years now. Finally, on this trip, I found a free night and ended up at Trattoria Contadina.
A Sign from Above
Trattoria Contadina is a neighbourhood staple in the in North Beach, it is exceptionally small and incredibly busy. As you walk through the door there is a sign overhead that reads. “LACASIA i PROBLEMI ALLA PORTA – BUON APPETITO” begging all who enter to leave their problems at the door and enjoy the meal. Entering the cosy neighbourhood restaurant warm from the open kitchen, which in San Francisco is usually a welcome thing any time of year. I was given a small table in the back corner and began to peruse the menu. The dish that caught my eye was this charming antipasto, on the menu listed as:
ROASTED BELL PEPPER |ASIAGO | MOZZARELLA | BEL PAESE | SPICY TOMATO CREAM
It was a wonderful Roasted Bell Pepper full of mozzarella and asiago in a rich spicy tomato cream sauce. Heaven. The dish was enjoyed with a wonderful Orvieto it was then that I fell in love. Upon returning home I constructed it from memory for my lovely wife, she agreed. So I’m eager to share it with you as well.
Roasted Bell Pepper and Mozzarella
Roasted Bell Pepper in Spicy Tomato Cream is pretty rich and filling, with all that gooey cheese and rich tomato cream. Serve with a spoon, the spicy tomato cream is almost drinkable, there may be some plate scraping
- 2 Red Orange or Yellow Bell Pepper
- 7 oz 200 g Mozzarella
- 3 oz 85 g Asiago
- 1 cup 240 ml San Marzano Tomato Juice (not the tomatoes from the can just juice around them)
- 2 cups 480 ml Heavy cream
- A pinch of Pepperoncini red pepper flakes
Preheat oven to Broil on high
Slice the Peppers into Boats
Broil the bell peppers skin side up for 4 min, then flip and broil for 3 min more.
The peppers should just blister. We are looking to soften but still retain the shape. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, reduce oven to 350 degrees f (175 degree c).
Chop Mozzarella, place in a bowl and add the asiago gratings, toss to combine let it begin to warm to room temperature.
In a saucepan tomato juice and red pepper flakes, heat until bubbly on medium-low heat about 2 min.
Add heavy cream, and warm slowly to medium-low heat. We want to heat it, but taking care not to scald. As the sauce begins to become rich and flavors are incorporated about 3 minutes season to taste cover and remove from heat. Season well.
Fill each boat with 1/4 of the cheese mixture.
Return the oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.
On a serving plate for each, place the Roasted Bell Pepper in the center add a little salt to the top, and spoon sauce over each pepper filling the plate.
Put in the oven and keep a close eye, the cheese will melt and the dish will warm after 4 minutes.
Remove from oven season with a little salt and freshly ground pepper.
One final note, the friend who told me about the restaurant, mentioned when he lived in San Francisco it was one of his perennial favourites. He knew the owners, and they ate there as well. He said, “You know a restaurant is good if the owners eat there as patrons.” It seems he has a point. In addition, he also shared that even after all these years he has the phone number for the restaurant in his contact list, so any time he is back in San Francisco he can make a reservation. I can say that after I have enjoyed a night at Trattoria Contadina, the number is in my contact list as well.
As I mentioned when I had this in San Francisco I enjoyed it with an Orvieto. The restaurant was warm, the Roasted Bell Pepper dish is rich and mildly spicy. A nice stony white wine is a wonderful pairing to this dish, something on the drier side to cut the cream, but also refreshing for the spice. I recommend an Orvieto from the Umbrian region of Italy, crisp simple and not competitive with this dish. It will complement rather than fight for centre stage.