Tomatoes, artichokes, pasta — oh, my!September 21, 2006
The benefits of starting this blog have been manifold: My husband cooks all the time, he’s inspired to conjure new and interesting recipes, and the deliciousness of the dishes he makes keeps escalating. I should be completely happy, right?
Well, there’s one teeny, tiny drawback to this exercise. I am forced to wait for my food! Yes, that’s right. Sometimes it’s not ready when I walk in the door; and, worse still, I have to take pictures of it in various stages of doneness, taking care that my drool doesn’t get all over the “product.”
That’s why I love this recipe. Not only is it delicious — which is key — it is also incredibly quick and easy. In about the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta, the entire sauce can be assembled and finished. And since my agenda is to eat delicious food NOW, this recipe is absolutely perfect.
I’ll say one final thing before my husband takes over: I love that this sauce includes artichoke hearts. They are so tasty. And asides from the ubiquitous spinach and artichoke dip and the occasional fancy salad, you hardly ever have occasion to eat them. So I thank my husband for conceiving of one more way for me to eat that mysterious vegetable/dinosaur relic, the artichoke. You’ll be glad, too, if you try this sauce…
This is a very simple and delicious pan sauce. I’ve been using it quite often with the pasta I’ve been making lately. It is a completely original concoction of mine, inspired by looking at delicious jarred artichoke hearts in the grocery store aisle. The hearts looked so ready to be used, all nice and curled up in this flavor-filled, delightful brine. I succumbed to their siren song.
So, the artichoke hearts are really the king of the dish. While the tomatoes and cream may steal the camera’s spotlight, the taster will know that it’s the artichokes that give the dish its soul. They have all the nice artichoky-flavor of themselves, plus they contribute the intense taste of their marinade.
Tomato-artichoke sauce is also a great pantry sauce, especially when you don’t have a lot of time, because, aside from the artichokes, we keep most of the ingredients in abundance. In fact, the most laborious aspect of the sauce is the prep work of draining tomatoes. You can simply rough chop them straight out of the can, but I like to remove the seeds by running the tomato under water, opening it up and rinsing its seeds into the sink. If you don’t want to use canned whole, you can used a smaller can of diced and dump it straight into the sauce. Alternatively, you could go fresh by using about 7 or 8 Roma tomatoes, diced. I tend to like canned because of convenience, and because I think they taste better in most sauce preparations when tomatoes are the base: They are assured to be very ripe, and they already have a stewed quality that it takes fresh tomatoes some hard cooking to reach.
In conclusion, tomato-artichoke sauce doesn’t overpower the pasta, and has a lot of flavor. It’s relatively simple in prep work and production. It plays well with all types of pasta — ribbons, ravioli, tortellini. It’s really a nice easy and tasty sauce. Convinced? Make it, and I hope you enjoy.
1 28 oz. can whole, peeled tomatoes (drained from liquid and chopped)
1 medium onion (diced)
8 marinated artichoke quarters (diced)
4 garlic cloves (minced)
1 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. dried basil, or about five leaves of fresh chopped basil
1/2 tsp. red pepper flake
1 tbsp. vodka (optional)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup pasta water
1. In large pot, boil water and cook pasta. (Note: if you cook pasta completely before beginning sauce, reserve one cup of the starchy pasta water)
2. In a large pan over medium-high heat, add the oil. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the red pepper flakes and allow them to cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the oil has a subtle orange hue. The red pepper is infusing with the oil to give everything a nice spicy heat. (Note: We like spicy food, so we add a whole teaspoon to ours. This is a good place to adjust how much kick you want in the dish, so feel free to experiment to make it work for you.)
3. Add the onions and artichokes, lightly salt them and let cook for about 4 minutes. You are looking for the onions to become slightly translucent as they cook.
4. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 3 minutes.
5. Add the garlic and cook for another 4 minutes. At this point, you should a rough mixture of cooked base coming together for the rest of the sauce. It should have a bit of liquid, but not much.
6. Add the cracker pepper, basil and oregano, stir and continue to cook for another 2 minutes.
7. Add the vodka and stir in. This step is optional. I believe vodka contributes to a more flavorful sauce, but really, it is not essential. After adding it, let it cook for 1 minute.
8. Turn down the heat to medium-low. Add the cream. This will make it a nice pink sauce. At this point, you are waiting for your pasta to cook. If you haven’t already put the pasta on, now is the time.
9. Once the pasta is cooking or is near ready, add the Parmesan cheese to the sauce. You want it to melt into the mixture, so you may need to turn up the heat to medium and stir vigorously.
10. Add the cooked pasta to the pan with the finished sauce. Add about a cup of the reserved pasta water. Turn off the heat. Toss the pasta to coat and let sit for about 1 minute. Serve. Enjoy!
(Note: The pasta water is important for three things. First, the sauce you have in the pan is thick and the water will loosen it up. Second, the water should have a nice salty flavor that will help to round out the seasoning. Finally, the starch from the pasta has seeped into the water. Therefore, the pasta will have a nice flavorful adhesive quality that will make it work well with the pasta.)