Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Pasta a la Power Outage

Last week DC got hit by a derecho, which I had never heard of until it was mentioned on TV.  It was a relatively short bout of rain accompanied by severe winds that took out enough trees and power lines that almost a million people in the DC area lost power. Actually, I missed the entire storm.  I went to see Magic Mike (chef recommends!) with some friends and then we went to a bar that was downstairs and had no windows.  It never lost power so I had no idea what was going on until people started texting me. I expected Metro to be in its usual state of weather-related fubar, but shockingly I made it to an above ground station without any problems. My husband picked me up and I came home to a house without power during one of the worst heatwaves on record.  It was over 90 degrees in our bedroom.  We ended up sleeping on the first floor on a mattress that we dragged down two flights of stairs.

Fifty.  Hours.  Without power.

Needless to say, we threw out the entire contents of our fridge and freezer.  Our cooler is tiny and it didn't seem worth it to try and salvage the one chicken breast that would have fit inside.  At least it was a good excuse to give the fridge a good cleaning.

The power came back on early on Monday morning and since I had to work, the big Wegmans run wasn't going to happen.  We've got a relatively new Safeway near our house, but I haaaaaate it.  It never has enough checkout lines open, the store layout was designed by a lab rat who ate three times its body weight in meth, and they are always out of things that I need.

So, we went to the Italian deli around the corner and bought some fresh pasta and the stuff I needed to improvise a tomato sauce.  What started out as an experiment turned into an excellent sauce! (Awesomesauce?) Since I bought a 28 ounce can of tomato puree, I ended up making the sauce twice to use it all.  The second night I tweaked it a little and it was even better!

This sauce is very tomatoey, but not in a sweet, commercial tomato sauce way. I added kalamata olives and capers for a little saltiness and a TON of garlic.  It took me about 20 minutes to make this.  I'm sure it could have simmered longer, but I was starving.  It's easy and vegetarian.

Awesomesauce version 1. I put cheese on half of the pasta so I could take a picture of the sauce.  I'm so considerate. 

This sauce is very simple.  The most time consuming part is hand squeezing the San Marzano tomatoes.  I think this is a necessary step because the extra liquid in the tomatoes might make the sauce watery given the relatively short amount of time it's cooked.  Plus it's also a chance to remove the tough white bits if they're still inside the tomatoes, and to crush them into bite sized chunks.  Do this over a sink, for the love of all that is holy, do it over a sink! Preferably with your hand down inside the basin because the tomatoes will splort all over the place. I learned this the hard way; it's a pain to wash tomato juice off the kitchen wall.

Awesomesauce version 2 was born a few nights later because I had half a can of tomato puree and the rest of a can of tomato paste to use before it went bad. Version 2 is a little better in my opinion.  The basil didn't quite go well with the salty capers and olives.  So I left it out and added sliced shallots and extra garlic instead.  I also thinly sliced the garlic instead of mincing it and I think it was better that way. I added more tomato paste than version 1, about half to 2/3 of a small can.  I also decided to finish cooking the pasta in the sauce and it made a world of difference!
Awesomesauce version 2, prior to cheesing. 

Awesomesauce version 1
Serves 2+
original recipe

Ingredients
14 oz tomato puree (so half of a 28 oz can if you can't buy a 14 oz can)
1 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes
3 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp capers, rinsed (especially if packed in salt)
About 1/2 cup halved kalamata olives
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese for grating

Method
1) Drain the San Marzano tomatoes.  Then squeeze each of them by hand to get rid of excess liquid and also remove the tough white bits if present.
2) Heat the olive oil in a pot.  Then add the garlic and cook over medium heat for about 1-2 minutes, until it smells good.  Then stir in the tomato puree and the San Marzano tomatoes.  Mix well and then stir in the tomato paste. Stir in the capers and add salt and pepper.
3) Simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes over low/medium low heat.  Use a splatter guard if the sauce gets splorty. Then stir in the olives.
4) Simmer for another 5-10 minutes or until sauce reaches desired consistency.  At the last minute, stir in the basil. Check to see if you need more salt or pepper.
5) Serve over pasta of choice with grated cheese.

Awesomesauce version 2
Serves 2+
original recipe

Ingredients
14 oz tomato puree
1 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes
1/2 to 2/3 small can tomato paste
2 Tbsp olive oil
8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp capers, rinsed (especially if packed in salt)
About 1/2 cup halved kalamata olives
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese for grating

Method
1) Drain the San Marzano tomatoes.  Then squeeze each of them by hand to get rid of excess liquid and also remove the tough white bits if present.
2) Heat the olive oil in a pot.  Then add the garlic and cook over medium heat for about 1-2 minutes, until it smells good.  Then add the shallots and cook until they are soft, about 3 to 5 minutes.
3) Then stir in the tomato puree and the San Marzano tomatoes.  Then stir in the tomato paste and mix well. Stir in the capers and add salt and pepper.
4) Simmer the sauce for about 15 minutes over low/medium low heat.  Don't forget your splatter guard! Now would be a good time to cook your pasta.  Cook it for one or 2 minutes less than the package instructions if you want to finish it in the sauce.
5) Then stir the olives into the sauce and cook for another 3 minutes.
6) Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.  Pour sauce over pasta and cook over low heat, mixing well, until the pasta is done according to your preference.  Check to see if you need more salt or pepper.
7) Serve with grated cheese.

2 comments:

Donald Sullivan said...

Sometimes simple, clean, and uncomplicated meals can be our favorites.

If I can trick Steph into using the olives I'm going to point her at this sauce.

Scienter said...

If she really hates olives, the capers alone would probably work just fine.

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