In the past this has always been my go to tomato sauce, simple and loaded with flavor it’s the one I always turn to…until now. Last Friday night I was sitting around the house and had a serious craving for spaghetti, but something a little different. Something with a little fire to it but still sweet and bursting with tomato flavor. After a quick trip to the store for some much needed wine and a couple missing ingredients I started on what is now my go to tomato sauce. The fire roasted tomatoes give this dish an added dimension of flavor, there is a smokiness to them that really goes well with a nice hearty glass of Gnarly Head Cabernet. And when a sauce is this simple I really do recommend buying quality ingredients. Spring for the good pasta in the fancy packaging made with semolina flour, you’re going to taste the earthiness, buy real parmesan cheese not that pre-grated powdered stuff, and for the tomatoes if you’re not going to use fresh my go to canned favorite is Muir Glen organic tomatoes (fire roasted in this case). They are sweeter and contain much less sugar then the other brands and taste less acidic as well. This dish is perfect for a mid week date night, just chill down the wine, throw on some jazz and let the smells of this wonderful sauce permeate throughout the house. In my opinion, it doesn’t get much better.
Linguini with Tomato Cream Sauce
Serves 2 (easily doubled to serve 4)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
½ yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 can Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes
¼ cup half and half
½ package of good pasta (Linguini, Spaghetti, etc)
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
Parmesan cheese for garnish
In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and olive oil over medium heat. When butter begins to foam, add your onions. Season onions with a sprinkling of salt and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic to the onions and cook until fragrant, only about 2 minutes. Add the can of tomatoes to the pan and reduce heat to low. Season with salt and pepper and let simmer for 20 – 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. When you have around 10 minutes left, start your pasta. Now, most importantly, pour yourself a glass of wine! After 20 minutes the sauce should smell wonderfully. This is the part where you can choose which direction you want to go. You can either leave the sauce as is, chunky and rustic or you can transfer the mixture to a fine mesh strainer. I go for the strainer as I think the sauce is much more delicate and pure without the onion and garlic chunks but it’s up to you. If going the rustic route, just cut off the heat add remaining 1 tablespoon of butter, then pour in your half and half and you’re done. If you’re going the strainer route (highly recommended) pour your mixture into the strainer and with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, smash down on the tomatoes, onion and garlic until the filtered sauce begins to pour though. It goes without saying you should probably being down this over a large bowl. Keep mashing until all the liquid has passed through the strainer. Discard what is left in the strainer and pour the filtered sauce back into your skillet. Over low heat melt in remaining 1 tablespoon of butter, cut the heat and pour in the ¼ cup of half and half. Drain your pasta and add directly to the skillet with the sauce. Toss gently and throw in your chopped basil. Serve on a warm plate with big chunks of peeled parmesan cheese and of course, pour yourself another glass of wine!