Tag Archives: garlic

Pasta in a Spicy Pink Sauce

Helen writes: I’ve been thinking about this pasta I had in a restaurant a couple of years ago that had a spicy sauce with tomatoes and cauliflower. I’ve canned diced tomatoes, cauliflower, and pasta – not sure what else I need or whether you can tell me how to make it.

Tony’s take: I’m with you, Helen. The restaurant Al Forno in Providence RI made a dish like this famous – a creamy sauce with t0matoes,  cauliflower, cream, and chili flakes which, when pureed, would take on a pinkish hue. It’s really easy – blanch the cauliflower for a couple of minutes and then saute with some garlic and crushed red pepper flakes, simmer with canned tomatoes until tender, and then puree with a splash of cream and some Parmigiano. Toss with a sturdy pasta like rigatoni or penne – you can even throw in some sauteed Italian sausage for a little meatiness – for a nice, relatively quick (I’d say 30 minutes all in) Friday night dinner for 4.

How to do it: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (about 2 Tbs. salt for 1 gallon water). Cut the cauliflower into 4 cups of 1-inch florets (this will take up about half of that head) and add to the boiling water. Cook the cauliflower at a steady simmer until it starts to become tender (try one), 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cauliflower to large plate. Reserve the water for cooking the pasta (the cauliflower will only give it a sweet flavor which is perfectly fine for cooking pasta).

Heat a couple smashed cloves of garlic (use the side of a chef’s knife to press them down and crush them) with a splash of olive oil (1 to 2 Tbs.) in a  a large, heavy pot (a Dutch oven would be good) over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic starts to brown lightly in places and becomes very fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cauliflower, a generous sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes (anywhere between 1/2 tsp. to 1 tsp. depending on how how you like it), and some chopped fresh thyme or rosemary (if you have – 1 tsp. of either will do) and cook, stirring, until the cauliflower starts to brown lightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Add some canned tomatoes (I’d use a 32-oz can of either diced or whole tomatoes) and their juices and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is completely tender, about 10 minutes. Add a splash of heavy cream (anywhere between 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup would be good – this will give the sauce some richness and the desired pink hue – you can omit this if you can do without the calories) and some grated Parmigiano (1/2 cup)  and puree using an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender. Season generously with salt and pepper to taste and hold the sauce over low heat.

While you’re making the sauce, cook the pasta (1 lb) in the boiling water until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain well and then add to the pot with the sauce. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, until the pasta absorbs some of the sauce and becomes tender and the sauce thickens slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve sprinkled with more Parmigiano.

Big Batch of Marinara

Jaimie writes: My dad is always bringing me stuff from Costco (even though I don’t ask for it!) – our theory is he goes there for the free food samples. Today, he dropped off this humongous can of tomatoes. My thought was to make a large marinara and freeze it in containers. I never really make my own marinara, though.

Tony’s take: Making a large batch of marinara is a good weeknight strategy. It’s easy and you can use the sauce for all sorts of pastas and quick braises (a cacciatore with chicken, a saute with clams and Italian sausage, a minestrone and so on). The trick to a good marinara is to produce intense flavors in a short amount of time. To do this, make an infused oil at the start of cooking with that rosemary, garlic, and some crushed red pepper flakes and use this as the base for the sauce.

How to do it: The whole canned tomatoes that you’ve got are a lot better than the ground peeled tomatoes – cleaner flavor, lighter texture. The only catch is that you have to puree the tomatoes yourself which is easy enough. As for the infused oil for the marinara – you just want to really gently cook some garlic (smashed cloves), herbs (fresh rosemary in this case), and crushed red pepper flakes (for a touch of heat  – if you’re alright with that sort of thing). Note: that big can of tomatoes you have (10 cans as they’re known in the restaurant industry) is the equivalent of 3 regular 32-ounce cans.

To start with, using an immersion blender or working in batches in a regular blender, puree the tomatoes and their juices and set this puree aside. Heat a large splash of olive oil (about 1/2 cup for this large batch) in a heavy pot (like a Dutch oven) over medium heat with 4 or 5 smashed garlic cloves (use the side of a chef’s knife and press down on them to crush them), stirring occasionally, until the garlic starts to brown lightly and becomes very fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in about 1 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary, and a light sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes (1/2 to 1 1/2 tsp. depending on how how you like things) and cook until they, too, start to sizzle steadily and become fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the pureed tomato (and a bay leaf or two if you have) and bring this mixture just up to a boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic and herbs infuse the sauce, about 20 minutes. At this point you can fish out the garlic cloves and bay leaves if you like (they’ve already done their flavoring thing), season the mixture generously with salt and pepper (different brands of tomatoes will contain different amounts of salt so it’s best to add this in 1/2-tsp. stages and taste), and a splash of balsamic vinegar (about 1 Tbs.). Feel free to chop up and stir in any other fresh herbs you’ve got kicking around – like thyme or basil.

Cool the sauce to room temperature before packaging up and sticking in the freezer. It will hold nicely for up to 3 months there.