Howlin' For You by The Black Keys
I really want to thank my buddy, Ian C., for acting so incredulous last fall when he found out I didn't have any Black Keys in my music library. I wasn't even sure if I had heard of them before. GASP!! He let me know, in no uncertain terms, that I should take care of that as soon as I got home (we were both vacationing on the Oregon coast at the time.) Well, I did. I came home and I sampled. And then I bought. And I saw that Ian was right. Where had I been? These guys are AMAZING! I love their bluesy funk that they've got going! Especially this Howlin' For You song. The beat in this song absolutely speaks to my inner primal being - much like the drum solo in In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly. And much like this very easy, very delicious, very quick, pasta with a creamy tomato sauce. It has me howlin' every time I fix it. And I fix it often - because anything that tastes this good in 20 minutes or less should be made often.
It's Valentine's Day today and, if you haven't already found yourself a valentine, you better hop to it! Like I said last week - I tagged mine early this year!
I think pasta makes a very romantic meal - as long as it doesn't get too involved. Nobody wants to be weary by the time dinner rolls around. This dish makes up so quickly. You'll be amazed! You can use any type of pasta - penne or rigatoni would be great - affording little tunnels where the tomatoes can sneak in and hide until you bite into them! But I suggest taking a cue from the Lady and the Tramp and use a long noodle such as fettuccine. That way you can share a bowl and dig in at the same time and eat until you end up nose to nose at the end of the same noodle!
"Why, hello there, Sweetheart!"
In culinary school I learned how good a quick pan sauce can be - which is what we're using here. A pan sauce is executed so fast that the flavors are at their best. The process is pretty straightforward. You start with some oil and/or butter in a saute pan. You add some aromatics such as garlic, onions, and/or herbs. Let them bloom a minute or two. Add some wine (or other liquid) to deglaze and reduce. Add the main ingredients and a little liquid and simmer. Then, if needed, you throw in a touch of cream and maybe some cheese. Let that cook down a bit.
A sauce is born.
It doesn't have to be a pasta sauce but that's what I usually end up making. Pasta is inexpensive and most people like it. I, however, LOVE it!
You can use fresh tomatoes but canned tomatoes are what I used and they are every bit as good as using fresh.
Put the kids to bed early tonight. Put a pot of water to boil. Grab a can of tomatoes, some garlic, a little dried oregano, and some wine (or not) and cream and dazzle your love with out-of-this-world pasta! And don't forget to include The Black Keys in the background!
Quick and Creamy Tomato Pasta
4 oz. dry pasta
1 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t. dried oregano
1/4 c. white wine, optional
1 - 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes, including liquid
1/4 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Kosher salt to taste
Fresh arugula or basil for garnish
Put a pot of water to boil, making sure it is large enough and full enough to give your pasta plenty of room to swim around as it cooks. When the water comes to a full boil, add a tablespoon of kosher or sea salt and the pasta and cook according to the package directions.
You can make your sauce while the pasta is cooking. Place a saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Warm the olive oil and add the garlic. Make sure the heat is not too high. Garlic will be nice to you if you're nice to it - and it does NOT like high heat. Once it's burned there's nothing to do but start over. So gently warm that garlic for a minute. Add the oregano and stir and heat another minute to bloom the flavor.
Turn up the heat and add the white wine. (If you prefer not to use wine, go ahead and add the tomatoes. The liquid off of them will suffice.) Let it come to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes. It'll reduce down to about half. Add the tomatoes, liquid and all, and bring to a simmer. Cook until the liquid reduces by a third - about 3 - 5 minutes. Warm the cream slightly in a microwave. You just want to take the chill off.
Reduce the heat under the tomatoes and stir in the heavy cream. Once incorporated, take the heat back up and bring to a simmer and cook until it starts to slightly thicken. Sprinkle half of the grated Parmesan cheese over and stir in. Taste and add salt accordingly. Add the cooked and drained pasta and toss.
Plate immediately and top with arugula or basil leaves and the remaining Parmesan cheese.