The other night was vegetarian night. Dinner was peperonata di patate, an Italian pepper and potato stew. It took more than an hour to simmer the vegetables to tenderness and to get the sauce to thicken to the right consistency. By the time dinner was almost ready, Speedy asked absent-mindedly what was in the stew, I said pepper and potatoes, and when I stopped my enumeration right there, he said, “And that’s that?”
Yes, that’s that, I replied.
I served the peperonata di patate with toasted French bread and by the time dinner was over, Speedy declared that we’d probably die if we turned vegetarian totally. Not that dinner was bad. It was as good as a vegetable stew could get but, you know, when you’ve lived all your life automatically defining stew as something meaty — even if the definition is mental and with no actual articulation — well, the experience of eating an all-vegetable stew can be strange and almost… uhmmm, unnerving.
So, that’s the peperonata di patate from the other night.
A day later, all that was left was about a cup of the chunky tomato sauce which was too wonderfully rich to throw away. So, I decided that it would be the starting point for a new dish. With leftover sauce from the previous night’s peperonata di patate, I cooked this rice casserole with pork, sweet paprika, carrots, peas and spinach.
But, wait! I’m not saying that you have to have leftover peperonata di patate sauce to make this dish. Use the leftover tomato sauce from some other dish like leftover pasta sauce or excess sauce from afritada, or make your own chunky tomato sauce. If you have to use store-bought, I highly suggest a can of stewed or diced tomatoes.
But, wait again! Just in case someone’s thinking of asking what paprika is, it is ground dried sweet peppers. Want more details, Google it.
Recipe: Paprika and tomato rice casserole
- 4 tbsps. of olive oil
- 1 and 1/2 c. of thinly sliced pork, with a little fat for added flavor
- 1 tbsp. of chopped garlic
- 1 to 2 tsps. of sweet paprika (smoked or not)
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 1 c. of chunky tomato sauce
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1/2 to 1 c. of sweet peas, depends on how much you like peas, I guess
- 1 c. of long-grain rice
- 1 to 2. of broth, preferably homemade
- a large handful of spinach leaves
- Rub the pork with some salt and pepper.
- Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the pork, garlic, paprika and a bit more salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned.
- Add the onion slices, a bit more salt and pepper. Optionally, if you may add the rest of the paprika. It’ll add a bit more flavor and color but too much can be overpowering too. Stir and cook until the onion slices start to soften.
- Pour in the tomato sauce. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the diced carrot and sweet peas.
- Pour in the rice. Add a cup of broth.
- Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 30 or until the rice is done and the mixture is quite dry.
- Tip: After about 20 minutes, check the liquid and the rice. If the rice looks like it’ll need more liquid to cook completely, add more broth.
- Turn the heat off. Add the spinach leaves to the rice. Cover and leave for 10 minutes with the heat off until the spinach is just wilted.
- Fluff up the rice to distribute the spinach leaves. Serve hot.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Cooking time: 60 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 3