Tuesday, July 15, 2008

simple tomato sauce

Last night's supper consisted of store bought tortellini with a simple tomato sauce and prosciutto wrapped figs stuffed with goat cheese.

The sauce is my go to for quick, easy and tasty results. I learned it from an italian geologist who happened to be in my home one Thanksgiving many moons ago. She had snuck over a hunk of "really good mozzerella" on the plane ride over to the states which she used for the sauce (forgoing what was available in my fridge) because she said she couldn't find any of the good stuff in the states. She did, however, approve of my dried pasta selection which she said was a good brand (Trader Joe's penne for like 68 cents, right? in case you were wondering).

For last night's dinner, I sort of poached the tortellini's in the sauce as it was simmering down instead of cooking the pastas separately in boiling water. It's the kind you buy in packages in the refridgerated section of supermarkets. I don't think it matters much which brand, but I did choose the one with porcini mushrooms and cheese filling.

I was supposd to steam some brocoli too, but I completely forgot about them until dinner was well over.

And because the main dish was so quick, I whipped up these rather obsene looking guys to accompany our meal. I'd meant to make them last week but M wasn't feeling well and proscuitto wrapped anything with goat cheese is probably better enjoyed when you're not down with a bug. Unfortunately the figs weren't as juicy honey sweet as they've been in the past, but we still enjoyed this dish which I have been dreaming of making all winter and spring waiting till figs were in season again.

Giovanna's Simple Tomato Sauce
1-2 crushed garlic cloves (I like it more garlicky so I go for 2 cloves)
drizzle of olive oil
3 medium sized tomatoes chopped up (nice and ripe any kind will do)
1 teaspoon of dried basil or 3-4 leaves of fresh basil chopped up
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 - 1/2 of a ball of fresh mozzerella cut into cubes to help melt down easier (optional)
crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

In a medium sized saucepan over medium high heat sautee crushed garlic in olive oil until garlic is tender and aromatic. Add crushed red pepper flakes at the same time if you like your sauce to have a little extra kick. It's nice to let the pepper flakes soften in the oil and mingle with the garlic.

Add chopped tomatoes and turn flame down to med/medium low and cover saucepan allowing tomatoes to break down and juice up. When there's a good amount of juice add dried basil. Add cheese and stir to incorporate and encourage melting.

Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes allowing tomatoes to completely break down and dried basil to relax and its flavor to marry with the sauce. The cheese should be nice and gooey by now.

If using fresh basil add at the end just before serving mixing well so that the heat of the sauce wilts the basil. Salt and pepper just before serving.

With last night's meal, I added the package tortellinis just after I added the cheese and covered to let the heat and juices poach the dumplings. I turned off the heat after the tomatoes had completely broken down and left the pan covered on the burner as I finished up with the other dishes and set the table.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups of sauce.

Prosciutto Wrapped Figs Stuffed with Goat Cheese
I think I saw this first in Martha Stewart's Living a few years ago and I'm sure it can be found elsewheres, but this is my (by no means definitive) way of making them. They are so good M and I gobble them up like there is no tomorrow.

1 dozen figs (approximately. I bought mine from Whole Foods and the basket had about a dozen)
1/4 lb of prosciutto from the cold cuts counter (this is of course tastier, but last night I used package prosciutto which also works)
1/2 log of goat cheese kept refridgerated until needed
spray cooking oil or olive oil with brush

Prepare a baking sheet with spray cooking oil like Pam or brush with olive oil and set aside. Preheat broiler.

Slit all figs on the plump rounded end making an X that runs halfway down the body of the fig.

Remove goat cheese from the fridge and slice off approximately 1 teaspoon and stuff the figs through the slits. You can push the fig closed so that it retains it figgy shape better. The firm goat cheese will help it stay together.

Wrap each stuffed fig with the prosciutto and place seam side down on a greased baking sheet. Broil until the prosciutto is crispy and turn to evenly crisp the other side. A little of the goat cheese melts out. That's okay. Serve hot.

I wanted to get all fancy and tie each bundle with some left-over chives that I have in my fridge and don't know what to do with, but I forgot that too.

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