Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pasta Voodoo: Super Easy, Flavorful Sauce

I love nerds. And the ones at America's Test Kitchen write the greatest cookbooks -- every recipe they tackle is an OCD quest for perfection and technical insight. When I have time, I follow them to the letter, and it always, always delivers. Otherwise, I glean the insight and just improvise the rest...which is more useful because it means I'm really learning something.

Their Pasta with Garden Vegetable Sauce was too boring to catch my eye for a while. But I had a bunch of veggies that were on the verge last month, and it was a way to use them up without resorting to Veggie Chili and three days of heartburn. The insight for the recipe surprised me because it's so useful and so simple: you can make a really flavorful, light sauce with browned tomato paste and broth. The jazz version goes something like....

1. Get your water going for 1/2 lbs. of pasta.

2. Gather olive oil, tomato paste, onions/garlic/shallots, broth, some "hard" veggies like carrots/red bells, some soft veggies like halved cherry tomatoes/zucchini/shrooms, and some green stuff like basil/parsley/arugula. Whatever's at hand usually works just fine.

3. Saute the soft veggies for about 2 minutes. You want the tomatoes just wilt. Set aside.

4. Saute the hard veggies with the onions for 5+ minutes. Stir in 3 tbsp of tomato paste well and let it brown a few minutes. Add a cup of broth and stir it again, scraping the bottom of the pan until it makes a sauce. Let it thicken a little and season it.

5. Cook and drain the pasta. Add to it the soft veggies and the saucy mix, then add in the chopped greens. Blend it all well and serve topped with a shredded hard cheese or goat cheese.

The sauce coats the pasta with a nice rich flavor that still lets all those lovely veggies shine. Since you're relying on browning to give you the flavor here, a stainless surface gives you the best fond. But I've used my trusty All-Clad non-stick twice and have been really happy with the results.

It's nice versatile dish that'll help make up for the some of the sins of the holidays.

1 comment:

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