Sunday, November 7, 2010


I found it fitting to start this blog with one of my most favorite meals; pasta with red sauce. I think it goes back to my childhood years spending time with my best friend N- and his family. I remember those days like they were yesterday, not 30 years ago. We were growing up in Illinois, where the winters are long, and would sit around the dining room table with bowls of steaming pasta with sugo (meat sauce) and rabbit. N-'s parents, grandma, brother, sister and us, I felt like I was part of the famly. His parents and grandma were from Sicily, Italy and brought with them the best recipies. I have tried many different sauces in the many years since but have never come close to those flavors and smells I remember from my childhood.

I have used canned tomatos; crushed, diced and whole, grown my own san marzanos, cooked then, crushed them in a food mill and bought plum, diced and cooked until broken down. I have tried using minimal spices, a lot of spices, balsamic vinegar, a little olive oil and a good 1/2 cup or so of oil.

In all this trail and error I have come up with a few good sauces and of course some not so good. But, last night I thought I would do something a bit different after watching America's Test Kitchen. We were just talking about having a simple meal and Christopher Kimball came on the screen to talk about a creamy tomato sauce and I knew what we were having for dinner. As we watched the show we were getting more and more hungry and the finished sauce looked wonderful. It has my favorites; tomato, prosciutto and red pepper flakes and since we always have everything in this ingredient list in our pantry we did not need to run to the market for anything. This has a really layered flavor since it uses tomatoes in different forms; paste, sundried and crushed:

Creamy Tomato Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 ounce prosciutto , minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 small onion , diced fine (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 bay leaf
  •   Pinch red pepper flakes
  •   Table salt
  • 3 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 ounces oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes , drained, rinsed, patted dry, and chopped coarse (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons crushed tomatoes (from one 28-ounce can)
  • 1 pound pasta (I now use gluten-free)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  •   Ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  •   Grated Parmesan cheese , for serving
  • 1. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add prosciutto, onion, bay leaf, pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is very soft and beginning to turn light gold, 8 to 12 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomato paste and sun-dried tomatoes and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly darkened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup wine and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid has evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • 2. Add 2 cups crushed tomatoes and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened (spoon should leave trail when dragged through sauce), 25 to 30 minutes.
  • 3. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water; drain pasta and transfer back to cooking pot.
  • 4. Remove bay leaf from sauce and discard. Stir cream, remaining 2 tablespoons crushed tomatoes, and remaining 2 tablespoons wine into sauce; season to taste with salt and pepper. Add sauce to cooked pasta, adjusting consistency with up to 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. Stir in basil and serve immediately, passing Parmesan separately.
I normally add a grilled hot italian sausage as a side with my pasta, but this is, of course, optional.


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