Last night, I was simultaneously 1) craving pasta and 2) trying to figure out how to use up the three tomatoes that have been sitting in my veggie crisper for the last week. Fortunately, steamykitchen.com had the solution: Pasta with fresh tomato sauce and garlic basil oil! I've actually been eying this recipe for a couple of weeks, as it is seemed simple enough to prepare (and cheap!), yet still managed to be a step above your typical tomato sauce. As an added bonus, it provides me with an elegant pasta dish I can serve to my vegetarian friends.
First I started with the garlic-basil oil. I threw together the 1/4 cup olive oil, 8 thinly sliced garlic cloves, 10 whole basil leaves and pepper flakes in a small pan and heated over the lowest heat possible.
I then let the oil heat for about 12 minutes, and, when the garlic was lightly browned, I took the pan off the heat and let sit for about 15 minutes. After the oil was completely cooled, I strained out the solids, reserving the oil.
Next, I turned to the sauce. The original recipe calls for 4 tomatoes and a 12-ounce can of whole tomatoes, but I only had 3 fresh tomatoes and a 14.5-ounce can of whole tomatoes, so I figured it would work out.
I boiled a pot of water, and prepared a large bowl of ice water. I put a small X on the bottom of each tomato, then slid them into the water for about 20 seconds.
I then fished them out and plunged them into the ice water. This process made it easier to peel off the skin (starting from the Xs I made on the bottom). Next, I quartered the tomatoes lengthwise and removed the seeds.
In a pan, I heated 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat, then added the fresh tomatoes and the 14.5-ounce can of whole tomatoes, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and a little salt and pepper. I let it cook for about 3 minutes.
Once the tomatoes had softened a little bit, I used a fork and a knife to mash and chop up the tomatoes in the pan. I simmered the sauce over medium low heat for about 25 minutes, stirring every once in awhile, until the tomatoes were completely cooked and the sauce had thickened.
Right before the sauce was done, I cooked a pound of linguine in a pot of salted water, but drained it a couple of minutes short of being done. I then added the cooked pasta to the sauce in the pan and cooked over medium-high heat, tossing the pasta and the sauce together until the pasta was completely done and coated with the sauce.
To finish it off, I turned off the heat, added 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, 8 chopped basil leaves and half a cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. I tossed the pasta until the butter was completely melted and the cheese was distributed throughout.
I drizzled the top with just a bit of the basil-garlic oil...
The resulting dish was surprisingly flavorful, given the simplicity of the recipe and limited number of ingredients. I really loved the little kick of heat the red chili pepper flakes added to both the tomato sauce and the garlic basil oil. And I may steal this oil to use on other things in the future - the infusion of garlic and basil pops, but still manages to be very subtle, and I can see it being delicious drizzled over grilled chicken or fish.
List of ingredients:
For the Tomato Sauce:
3 ripe tomatoes
One 14.5-ounce can of whole tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
8 chiffonaded basil leaves
1 pound spaghetti
For the Basil-Garlic Oil:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 whole cloves garlic, thinly sliced
10 whole fresh basil leaves
Generous pinch crushed red pepper flakes