March 17, 2011

Weeknight Dinner- Pomodoro Sauce over Pasta with Arugula and Garlic Bread

What did we have for dinner last night? We had delicious pomodoro sauce (pomodoro means 'tomato' in Italian) over homemade gnocchi (that I had frozen previously), some baby arugula with a quick homemade honey mustard dressing and some garlic bread. Delicious! This is a wonderful sauce, with rich vegetable flavor. You'll love dipping your garlic bread in the sauce, too! This freezes well and with its pureed texture, looks very elegant. It's great for dinner parties, too, because you can make it ahead of time.

Have you ever skinned and seeded roma tomatoes before? It's really not that hard and what's great about this recipe is that you complete this step while the onion, carrots and celery are cooking, so you're multitasking! Look at you, overachieving in the kitchen :) Let's get started!

Pomodoro Sauce
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion (slightly larger than your fist), coarsely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
10 large roma tomatoes (each was almost the size of my fist)
sea salt
freshly cracked pepper
1 cup heavy cream

You will need two large pots- one to cook your sauce and one to boil water. Get the water started heating up while you start the sauce! In a large pot, either a large dutch oven or a stock pot, heat the oil and butter over medium low heat. Once the butter has melted, increase the heat to medium and add the onion. Cook for 4-5 minutes, then add the carrots and celery. Cook these vegetables for roughly 15 minutes. You want them to cook and soften, but not to brown, so adjust your heat and cooking time to meet that.

Prepare your tomatoes- remove the portion that attaches to the stem of the plant and cut an 'x' on the bottom of each tomato. Don't worry about blemishes on the skin- you're going to remove the skin, so you'll be getting rid of these anyhow. While the water comes up to a boil, prepare two additional bowls, one with ice water and one is just empty. Once the water is boiling, in batches, place as many tomatoes as will fit without crowding them. Let them stay in the boiling water for a few minutes, transfer to the ice bath once you see the skin begin to split. Allow to cool for at least a minute before handing them. In the meantime, place the remaining tomatoes in the boiling water. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how easily the skin peels off the tomatoes- go ahead and remove the skins of those that have already been boiled and split. Discard the skins. Either over the sink, a bowl, or the trash, squeeze the tomatoes to get rid of the majority of the seeds and juice. This doesn't have to be perfect, just get rid of a good portion. Chop the remaining tomatoes coarsely and then add to the pot that is cooking the onion, carrots and celery. Stir to combine with the other vegetables, partially cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 1 hour.

During your 1 hour of simmering, catch up on the most recent episode of 'V,' which, I am very excited includes an appearance by the actor who played Mike Donovan in the original V!!! I should tell you, my family and I were really, really into the original V in the 80's. I think there is still a box somewhere in the garage with all the episodes of V recorded on Beta max. Yes, we were a Beta max family... Anyhow, I am LOVING the new V and it's so fun to have the actors that played Diana and Mike Donovan on the show! My husband did not watch V when he was younger, so he looks at me puzzled when I get excited when one of them comes on screen.
Oh my goodness, your hour just flew by, thanks to the aliens in your DVR! Ok, so your beautiful sauce is done simmering, turn off the heat, cover it, and allow it to cool for 10-15 minutes. You can get the rest of the dinner ready in the meantime! Use either frozen homemade gnocchi, or store bought gnocchi, or honestly any pasta you like- you can even use the tomato water to cook it in! No new pots to clean! So go ahead and cook your pasta. While it's boiling, make your garlic bread, check out how on this post:

Now for your salad- I buy pre washed baby arugula and just mound it on the plate. In a small mason jar, I combine 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar, 4 Tbsp. olive oil, roughly 1/2 tsp. each honey and dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Put on the top of the jar, give it a few shakes, and it's good to go!

Now to put the finishing touches on your sauce- so it's cooled enough that we can blend it. I have a handheld blender, but this sauce is not very watery, so you may be better off using a conventional blender. Be careful if your blender top doesn't have vents for hot liquid, the top may be forced off. So, once the sauce is blended, stir in the cup of cream, season to taste with salt and pepper.

On each plate, place a helping of arugula and dressing, pasta, top with sauce, and 1-2 pieces garlic bread. Grate some parmesan over the top of the pasta and the salad. Enjoy!

Optional- add some freshly grated nutmeg to the sauce, or use a different type of cheese to top the pasta and salad. This sauce can be adjusted to have a stronger tomato flavor. Increase the amount of tomatoes or reduce the proportion of vegetables.

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