Thursday, April 8, 2010

Roasted Tomato Pasta Sauce

Spring has sprung here in the suburbs. Everything is turning green, even my car thanks to all the pollen. And, thanks to global warming, or something, it's 90 degrees right now. On the plus side I wont have to roam the house with my bread dough looking for the very warmest place I can find so that it will rise in a reasonable amount of time the way I was all winter. But, it has also kicked off a craving for some luscious tomatoes to make into fresh pasta sauce, and we cant quite get those yet. I must have made Nigella's spaghettini al sugo crudo once a week last summer, and I am sure I will be making it and posting it here soon, but until that day comes, we will just have to make do with this sauce adapted from Martha Stewart (I was going to link you to the original recipe, but I cannot find it on her website for some reason, o Martha what am I going to do with you). Roasting the tomatoes first bumps up the essential tomatoeyness, for lack of a better word, and gives the sauce a great flavor, while the fresh basil and mozzarella brighten it up some. O and I hope you all had lovely Easters and/or Passovers, I know I did.

Start with your tomatoes, ideally you want roughly 2 cups, I had less. We had these heirloom cherry tomatoes in the fridge, so that is what I used. Toss with a splash of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Pop in a 375 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes, tossing once or twice so they cook evenly. You want them to sort of collapse in on themselves, and it doesn't hurt if the skin pops.

Once the tomatoes are roasted, you can carry on making the sauce, or you could do this part ahead of time and just let them hang out in your fridge for a day or two until you are ready.

Now for the sauce. Pour a bit of olive oil into a skillet, enough to cover the bottom. Martha would have you do 1/4 cup, but I didn't do that much. Smash 3 cloves of garlic and saute them in the oil. Don't worry, you don't have to eat those giant cloves (unless you want to), you just want them to infuse some lovely garlic flavor into the sauce.

Once you can smell the garlic, add the tomatoes, I cut these in half, but made sure to get as many of the guts that squirted out into the pan as I could.

I wanted a slightly saucier sauce, so I added a small can of tomato sauce. But, you could also add a can of diced tomatoes if you wanted a chunkier sauce, or you could start out with more roasted tomatoes to begin with. At this point i also added a handful of basil that I cut into strips using my handy dandy kitchen scissors (I love kitchen scissors, when I use them it generally means I don't have to wash a cutting board). Let the sauce simmer until the pasta is ready.

Meanwhile, you should be boiling some pasta. The point of the pasta is twofold, obviously as a vehicle for the lovely pasta sauce, but also for the starchy water. Actual chefs put pasta water in their sauces, and I do too. Actually most of the time I forget, but this time I remembered, well mostly because I had the heat on a bit too high and the sauce was bubbling down more than I wanted so I tossed in a ladleful or two of pasta water.

Once the pasta is done, drain it and return it to the pot. Add the sauce and an entire ball of fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes. Toss it all together, put the lid back on the pot and let it sit for a few minutes so the cheese can melt.

After the cheese is nice and melty, it is ready to eat.

Roasted Tomato Pasta Sauce
about 2 cups cherry tomatoes
olive oil
salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, smashed
8 oz. can tomato sauce
about 10 leaves of fresh basil
1 ball fresh mozzarella, cubed

Toss the tomatoes in enough olive oil to lightly coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper (if using cherry tomatoes leave them whole, I would cut romas in half and anything bigger than that into quarters). Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Roast in a 375 oven until they collapse in on themselves, about 15 minutes for the cherry tomatoes.

Coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil and saute the garlic in it over medium heat until fragrant. Roughly chop the roasted tomatoes, then add them to the skillet. Add the tomato sauce, and the chopped basil.

Meanwhile, cook whichever pasta you love the most, adding about a cup of pasta water to the sauce, as needed. Once the pasta is done, drain it and return it to the pot. Toss with sauce and mozzarella, letting it sit until the cheese melts.

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