What’s Burning: A Peppered Penne Pranzo

iPhone Peppers | ©Tom Palladio ImagesHere’s a quick-’n’-easy Lazy Person’s pasta dish featuring penne rigate (cylinder shaped, furrowed “quills”), grilled peperoni (bell peppers) and a handful of olive nere tostate  (Greek-style toasted black olives).

This dish is sooo simple to make, you could almost email it in.

It’s a Peppered Penne Pranzo — as my short-order cook alter ego calls it — and it’s one of my favorite go-to dishes and plates in less than 30 min., or YOU DON’T PAY. Not bad for “slow food.”

Me like pasta in tomato sauce | ©Tom Palladio ImageMore often than not, Italians of ALL ages enjoy a plate of pasta at pranzo (lunch) vice cena (dinner). Admittedly, pasta — in all its varied lengths, shapes and sizes — can be one of the heavier dishes of la cucina Italiana, depending on the ingredients, and is best served as part of the midday meal.

Quicker than a flying plate hurled in anger by Gordon Ramsey, let’s race into the kitchen and get this midday madness underway.


Penne and Peppers recipe graphic | ©Tom Palladio Images

Step-1: Fill a medium-size pot with water, cover, set the burner to HIGH and bring to a boil.

On the cutting board | ©Tom Palladio Images

Step-2: Cut the pre-packaged roasted peppers and black olives, and peel, quarter and flatten out the cloves of garlic.

Olive oil in the skillet | ©Tom Palladio Images

Step-3: Pour the olive oil into a skillet rotating it around until the pan is completely coated. Set the burner on MEDIUM heat and warm the oil for no more than one min. DO NOT BURN THE OIL.

Garlic and olive oil in the skillet | ©Tom Palladio Images

Step-4:  When the olive oil heats up, introduce the garlic (or garlic powder) and stir. Once the garlic cloves turn paper-bag brown, turn the burner off and remove them from the skillet and toss.

Penne Rigate out of the box | ©Tom Palladio Images

Step-5: Weigh the pasta to ensure you have the right amount (100g x person).

Step-6: The medium pot of water is now boiling. Remove the lid and add the sea salt.

Penne in the Pot | ©Tom Palladio Images

Step-7: Drop the dried penne into the boiling water, stir vigorously for about 15 sec. to keep the pieces separated. Set the timer for 10 min. and let the pasta cook on its own.

Note: Cooking time for the penne (size n. 73) is 11 min., but we’ll subtract 1 min. and use that time to quickly sauté the pasta in the sauce at the very end just before plating to ensure the dish is al dente.

Peppers and black olives in the pan | ©Tom Palladio Images

Step-8: While the penne cook, return the skillet to the burner and place on MEDIUM heat. Fold in the peppers and black olives, the optional crushed red pepper flakes, and 2 tablespoons of the boiling, salty pasta water and turn mixture for 2 min. Turn the burner down to LOW and keep the sauce going until the penne finish cooking.

Step-9: The timer rings at the 10-min. mark. The pasta is done. Turn off the burner, drain the penne and shake off the excess water.

Add the penne to the sauce | ©Tom Palladio Images

Step-10: Throw the penne down into the skillet. Raise the burner to MEDIUM-HIGH heat and sauté quickly for about 30-sec., or until all the “quills” are bathed in the sauce.

Plated and served | ©Tom Palladio Images  Artisan black olive bread | ©Tom Palladio Images

Step-11: Turn the burner off. Plate the penne. Serve with crunchy, artisan black olive bread.



Recommended wine pairing: Bidibi IGTMaculan Società Agricola, Breganze (VI), Italy — Made from a blend of Tai (f.n.a. Tocai, 55%) and Sauvignon (45%), this refreshing vino bianco is straw-yellow in color. Intensely aromatic, it pours forth with refreshing notes of ripe tropical fruit, citrus and freshly cut grass.

Bidibi IGT -- Maculan Società Agricola, Breganze (VI), Italy | ©Tom Palladio Images   Bidibi IGT -- Maculan Società Agricola, Breganze (VI), Italy | ©Tom Palladio Images

Dry and well-rounded on the palate, Bidibi IGT has a vibrant acidity with a pleasant and persistent finish. It stands on its own as a true ombra (regional dialect for aperitif), and marries well with soups, first courses – including the above recipe – and light fish dishes. Best served chilled at 10°C. CIN CIN!

©The Palladian Traveler | ©Tom Palladio Images

TPT Borsalino 2014 Color |©Tom Palladio Images



  1. More of “What’s Burning?”, I say … everyday meals are the real spice of life – just the combination of a few good ingredients, and voila, lunch is served! 🙂

  2. LOl, I kept waiting for you to add the pepperoni ( which here in the US is a spicy meat). Realized after re-reading it was the peppers! My husband will be SO disappointed!!

    1. Tina — This is a good example of “lost in translation.” Peperoni (one P) is for bell peppers over here in Italy. The stateside spicy pepperoni is called salame piccante. 🙂

  3. Tom, perfect music to cook by. What is the CD? Another great mouth-watering post. You can dirty up my kitchen with lunch any day you want to pop in. 😉 If you give me a couple hours notice I’ll have a few friends here and we’ll have a party.

    1. Emily — My “virtual” trattoria is already open, and you’ve been dining there every time I post a foodie blog. By the way, you stiffed me on the bill the last time you stopped by, and you ate like a HORSE. 🙂

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