Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pasta with tomato cream sauce

I'm a combination of happy, relieved and proud that I finally can present this recipe. Why? Because I have been working on it off and on for several years now (I don't make it all that often). The big thing I'm concentrating on here is the sauce. I normally serve this with angel hair pasta and some nice shrimp as it is a fairly delicate combination of flavers.

Here's what I did:

I took a pint of grape tomatoes. I like grape and cherry tomatoes because they have a lot of flavor and a brightness to the flavor that is difficult to get from large tomatoes. Larger tomatoes, if they're cheap, tend to be mealy. If you can buy the pricey ones on the stem, they're quite nice. Best, of course, is growing your own- which I plan on doing this year (gotta use that balcony for something- it's a sin to just ignore). Anyway, this recipe makes enough for dinner for two and then lunch for the next day. Take the pint of grape tomatoes and slice them lengthwise and dump them into a saucepan. I should say that you do not, in fact, have to slice them, but it speeds up the process a little. What are we doing and why are we doing it? You are to heat the tomatoes under a medium heat- do NOT get impatient and stick it on high, or you will severelly risk burning the tomatoes. You are heating it on medium to do two things. One is to cook the tomatoes. The second is to remove the water. And this is the trick. I spent years trying different kinds of tomatoes, washing or not washing, removing the jelly or leaving in, patting every single piece of tomato dry with a paper towel- the list goes on. Why did I do all of this? Because once I made the sauce, the sauce would be watery to greater or lesser amounts. Oh, most people would not have been able to tell, I know. But I could- the flavor and texture were off and I knew why. And I knew where the water came from, clearly- the tomatoes. This time, I unlocked the secret. You need to cook the tomatoes under a medium heat until the consistency becomes a somewhat thick paste- yes, this will take a long time and a lot of stirring. Say 20 minutes at the very least. As you cook, I would reccomend that you get a potato masher and smush them as they cook- as I said, to work it into a thick paste.

Okay, paste done. In another saucepan, you're going to make a basic roux. I use one stick of butter and roughly a heaping tablespoon of flour. Melt the butter, then whisk in the flour. Lot it cook for a minute, though not too hot. Now at this point you have some choices, though I know where I go. You will want to add milk or cream. Yes, milk will work just fine. However, I personally like a much richer sauce- I use heavy cream. Slowly add two cups of cream in small amounts, keeping the roux homogenous. Having done so, let the sauce heat to a simmer (careful! milk will boil over in a split second if you don't keep a careful eye on it). Now add the tomato paste. Whisk it in. You'll have a very dark, red sauce. Taste it. Now, I wanted a nice tomato flavor, but not too strong, so I ended up adding roughly another cup of heavy cream. To this, I added about a pinch of black pepper and salt.

I made two pounds of angel hair pasta and two pounds of shrimp with this. This was vastly too much- I'd reccomend one pound of pasta and one pound of shrimp- I shoudl say, one pound after being deshelled. So yea.

Here's a tip. If you want the sauce to have a shrimp flavor, peel your shrimp and put just the shells into a small amount of water- just enough to almost but not quite cover the shells. Heat to a boil and let it go for a little while. Most people don't know, but the majority of the flavor in shrimp actually comes form the shell and not from the meat. After I've heated, I strain the shell with cheesecloth, then heat the water more. Once it goes down enough, add to the cream sauce. However, since this is water, you will end up, of course, watering the sauce. However, this is a useful tip for using shrimp in other meals and sauces.

Edit 3/5/12 Another tip: You can use canned tomato paste. However, and this is incredibly important- do NOT use the ultra cheap stuff. The price difference is negligable, since you only need to use one of the tiny cans. You MUST check the ingredients. There should be one and only one ingredient: tomatoes. If it says anything else, particularly if it says Citric Acid, DO NOT BUY IT. The acid will either react badly with the cream, or it will make the sauce taste sour. A cheap brand I reccommend is Contadina. I've seen it in stores for a whopping $1.25 for a tiny can. You can get it even cheaper in a large pack at Costco's. But whatever you buy, spend the extra fifty cents and buy the good stuff, even if it isn't organic or some other nonsense (you hippy).

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