Believe it or not, garlic is a somewhat rare ingredient in Italian cooking. It really only entered the cuisine when Italians emigrated to the U.S. and started cooking here. In traditional Italian food in Italy, you typically won't find garlic (or too much garlic) in your red sauces because many people think the flavor is too overbearing. Italian cooks wanted the tomato flavor to shine and not get clouded by the strong garlic flavor. Now ask much as I love authentic Italian food, this recipe will not be one because I also love garlic. However, to try and help the tomato flavor shine in this Creamy Pomodoro Pasta, you really have to cook your tomatoes down to concentrate the tomato flavor. This adds a subtle sweetness to the sauce which balances out the garlic flavor. To make this Creamy Pomodoro sauce, we obviously need something creamy, so I called in some mascarpone cheese. Mascarpone is an Italian cheese, similar to cream cheese, but not nearly as tangy. It melts into the sauce and adds a subtle richness and tang to it. In a pinch, you can substitute it with full-fat ricotta cheese or even heavy cream, however, I really recommend using mascarpone if you can.
TOTAL TIME: 50 minutes
SERVINGS: 4 (makes extra sauce)
28 oz. canned tomatoes (preferably San Marzano tomatoes)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 white or red diced onion
About 1/2-3/4 cup mascarpone cheese (sub with heavy cream or full-fat ricotta if needed)
5 garlic cloves (diced)
Handful basil leaves
Chili flakes (optional to taste)
Salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)
1 lb. pasta of choice
Add the olive oil to a pot on medium heat. Once the oil gets hot, add in your onions, salt, oregano leave, chili flakes, and pepper. Sauté for 3-4 minutes until onions become translucent. Add in garlic and mix for another 2 minutes.
Pour in tomatoes and all of their juices. Add a little more salt. Mix everything together and then let the sauce simmer on medium heat for about 20-30 minutes stirring occasionally.
After the sauce has significantly cooked down, begin boiling your pasta in a separate pot of heavily salted water. Cook the pasta according to the box instructions and until it is a minute or two shy of al dente.
While your pasta boils, keep simmering the pasta sauce and mix in the mascarpone. Once everything is combined, season to taste with more salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Then remove the sauce from the flame and add about 2/3 of the pasta sauce to a pan and save the rest for another day (this sauce freezes really well).
Add the pasta straight from the pot to the pan of sauce and mix well. Add in a little pasta water if necessary to thin out the sauce. Mix in more mascarpone if desired and fresh basil leaves. Top with parmesan cheese before serving.
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