Tuesday, June 28, 2011
CAVATAPPI WITH TOMATO SOFFRITO
A soffrito is a combination of onions, carrots, and celery, mixed with herbs and sauteed in olive oil. In addition to serving as the base for a meatless tomato sauce, it can also be a base for other Italian dishes. I've been using a soffrito as a base for my quick sauce since I bought my copy of Marcella Hazan's Classic Italian Cookbook over 25 years ago. As my regular readers know, I'm in the throes of infatuation with another Italian cookbook, New Jersey housewife Teresa Giudice's Fabulicious. When I saw Teresa's recipe for tomato soffrito, I decided to give it a try to see how it stacked up against my tried and true recipe. While I did tinker a bit with her recipe--I added a carton of crushed tomatoes to my 8 plum tomatoes--I loved her combination of herbs and was pleased to put my thriving herb garden to use. I would normally use just basil and parsley, but Teresa's addition of rosemary and sage to those two stand-by's was wonderful and I won't leave them out in the future. While the sauce cooks in just 15 minutes, I have always preferred a more robust sauce and simmered mine over a very low heat for about an hour and a half.
Makes enough to sauce 1 lb pasta; serves 4-6
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib with leaves, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 (26 oz) carton Pomi crushed tomatoes
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 tbs chopped fresh basil
1 tsp chopped fresh sage
1/2 cup water
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb pasta
1/4 cup freshly chopped Italian parsley
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes, rosemary sprigs, chopped basil, sage, and water. Cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked into a thick, chunky sauce. Season with salt and pepper and discard the rosemary sprigs. (as I mentioned, I don't like "raw" sauces; I simmer my sauce for 1-2 hours over very low heat).
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add salt and pasta and cook according to pasta directions for al dente. Drain well.
Return the pasta to the pot and add the sauce and parsley and mix well. Serve hot and pass the cheese.
We loved, loved, loved this simple, meatless sauce. Clearly there are many similarities between Teresa's family's style of cooking and my family's. Since Naples and Salerno are relatively close to one another, I guess that isn't surprising. What is surprising is how much I am enjoying cooking my way through her two books. Too many celebrity cookbooks are vanity affairs and it becomes obvious that the "author" has no cooking chops. This is not the case with Teresa and I have to admit I am becoming a bit of a "groupie." Stay tuned because there are many more wonderful recipes I've tried and will be sharing.