Tuesday, June 21, 2011
How many of you watched Top Chef All Stars? If you did, you almost certainly remember cheftestant Mike Isabella’s pepperoni sauce in the finale. Gail Simmons couldn’t stop raving about it. It did look absolutely delicious, so when Bravo put the recipe on their website a month or so later, I couldn’t wait to try it.
I have to admit that I wasn’t a big fan of Mike the first time he was on Top Chef. For lack of a better term, he seemed like a total douche. But in the all stars season he didn't bother me nearly as much, and I actually don’t think I would have minded if he would have won. His food always looked delicious, and if the rest of his dishes tasted as good as this pepperoni sauce? Well, then I would say that he deserved to win.
This sauce has such incredible flavor. The pepperoni adds a wonderful spiciness and it works perfectly with the toasted fennel seed. Next time I make this I’ll double it so I can freeze a batch. This would be a perfect flavorful sauce to have on hand in the freezer for those nights I just don’t feel like cooking.
slightly adapted from BravoTV.com
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, cut into small dice
5 medium cloves garlic, cut into very thin slices
1 pound pepperoni, cut into thin slices
1 teaspoon fennel seed, toasted
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
14 ounces canned Italian tomatoes, chopped, with their juices
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 fresh bay leaf
1. Toast the fennel seed in a small dry skillet over medium heat, shaking the skillet often to keep the seeds from burning. They will become fragrant and slightly darker in color.
2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, until the oil simmers. Add the onion and garlic; cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until they are golden and fragrant.
3. Stir in the pepperoni; cook for about 5 minutes, until fragrant and evenly coated, then add the toasted fennel seed and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute, stirring.
4. Add the tomatoes and their juices, the broth, and the bay leaf; stir to incorporate. Once the mixture starts to bubble at the edges, cover and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. The pepperoni slices will be soft, with a deeper color. Remove from the heat.
5. Working in batches as needed, transfer to a food processor or a high-powered blender (including the bay leaf). Puree until smooth. Serve with pasta.