Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pasta | Casarecce in Fresh Tomato Sauce

Now that we have prepared the fresh-from-Carbon tomatoes, it is time to make a fresh sauce for our pasta! Minimized using the processed one as you aren’t sure what chemicals are mixed to preserve it.
(Here's how to prep your tomatoes for making fresh tomato sauce)

Let’s just make a simple pasta, and make use some of the stuff you stock in your pantry. And of course, this dish goes a long way if we will use fresh herbs!

Here’s what you need:

A kilo of blanched, peeled, seeded and quartered tomatoes
A few celery stalks, chopped
1 medium red onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 to 3 tablespoons tomato paste
Black olives, sliced
Sprigs of sweet Italian Basil (I used the Thai basil here since it’s available in my garden)
Freshly-grind peppercorns
Muscovado sugar
Olive oil
6-8 pieces shrimps, deveined (head part set aside)

Here’s how to prepare:

1. In a food processor, puree the tomatoes as well as the celery stalks until smooth consistency. Set aside.

2. In a mortar and pestle, crush the shrimp heads and squeeze out the juice. We will use this to flavor the sauce. A half cup of liquid is enough.

2. In a wok or heavy bottom pan, sauté the minced onions in hot oil until translucent then add the minced garlic. Saute until fragrant, make sure not to burn or brown as it will impart a bitter taste.

3. Pour the pureed tomatoes. Add pepper and salt. The tomatoes look pale and it is not inviting to your senses so let’s add a bit of color by adding the tomato paste. Let it simmer until almost all the liquid evaporates.

4. Tomatoes are a bit acidic so let’s add sugar to temper the sour taste. Adjust the salt to balance the sweetness. It is up to you if you want the sweet Pinoy style sauce. Add the sliced black olives. If the sauce is a bit dry, use the liquid from crushed shrimp head, or add some extra virgin olive oil.

5. Add the shrimps and cook for a few more minutes, about 4-5 minutes. Do not overcook the shrimps. When it is almost done, sprinkle the chopped basil leaves. Remove from heat.

6. On a separate pot, boil a liter of water. Put some oil and salt. Cook the pasta according to package directions until tender to bite (al dente). Strain and set aside.

7. On a serving platter, arrange the cooked pasta and top it with the shrimp basil tomato sauce. Garnish with sprig of basil. Serve hot.

Note: According to my Pasta bible, as a rule you don’t have to put cheese to any seafood pasta. I kept on researching why but find nothing about this one. I suspect cheese has a lot of glutamic acid, the one responsible for that “umami” taste in food. Seafood is rich in glutamic acid and so there is no need for cheese. (hahaha, now my food scientist mind is working!).

I used casarecce pasta here because it works well with “heavy” or chunky sauces. The shape is a loosely rolled, and I love it when the sauce clings to both sides (inside and outside) of the pasta.

Imagine eating pasta where one ingredient you used is processed (the tomato paste) and the rest are actually fresh! Now that’s what we call healthy living!

Tip: You can prepare the sauce days before. You need to cool down the sauce from cooking and transfer to clean airtight containers and freeze it! Just thaw it when needed and put in your microwave oven for that quick warm pasta fix. Frozen sauces can be stored for a few days to a week.

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