You can use this first part of this recipe as a loose guide for frying sweet peppers for nearly any application, including the classic smear-on-crusty-bread move.
6 oz. pancetta, thinly sliced
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to finish
2 lb. Melrose peppers, stemmed and seeded, or 1 lb. sweet green bell peppers
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
1 lb. rigatoni pasta
1 cup shaved ricotta salata (You can also use shaved pecorino or any hard-ish sheep’s milk cheese.)
Heat a deep skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, add a few slices of pancetta and cook, about 3 minutes per side, until crisp. Transfer the crisped pancetta to a plate and repeat with the remaining slices. Leave the fat in the pan.
Place the pan back over medium-high heat and add 1 tbsp. olive oil. Add the garlic, peppers, and a good pinch of salt. Stir and turn the peppers until they’re all evenly coated in the oil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 8-10 minutes, until the peppers have softened a bit and some have begun to brown. Stir and turn again, cover, and cook for 10 more minutes. Repeat until the peppers are very soft and sweet, usually after about 30-40 minutes of total cooking time. Add the lemon juice and zest and stir to combine. Taste and check for seasoning, adding salt if needed and a good bit of black pepper.
While the peppers cook, cook the rigatoni in well-salted water according to the package directions. Try to use a little less water than you usually might. That will concentrate the starch in the pasta water and make for a better binder later on. Note that you’ll want to check and stir it a bit more often, too, so the pasta keeps moving and doesn’t stick to the pot.
Using a slotted spoon or small strainer with a handle, transfer the cooked pasta directly from the pot to the peppers. Alternately, if you’re not sure all the pasta will fit, reserve about a cup of pasta water and drain the pasta in the sink. Return the pasta to the hot pot and add the peppers, being sure to scrape the garlic and oil out of the pan. Gently fold the pasta and peppers together, adding a few splashes of pasta water as you go. If you accidentally add too much water, turn the heat on low to help some of the liquid evaporate as you stir.
Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl. Break up the crisped pancetta rounds with your hands and add them to the bowl, along with the ricotta salata. Toss gently to combine and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.