Monday, July 22, 2013

Pasta with Roasted Tomato Sauce (Yes, I roasted them myself)

Roasting tomatoes yourself?  I always thought that was something only chefs did.  It has to be complicated, right?  Wrong!  It is so ridiculously easy and it brings out so much flavor!  You won't believe how delicious a tomato can be until you roast it in the oven.  Not to mention onions and, of course, garlic.  Roasted garlic is like little nuggets of gold.  Crazy good!  It's so mellow and nutty, not sharp or bitter at all.  I could just spread it on crackers and eat it, as is.  Fantastic!  O.K., can you tell I'm excited about this?  Well, it's like discovering a hidden gem in cooking.  It just takes some time, but nearly no effort, to transform your veggies into a spectacular sauce.  Your pasta never had it so good.

Here's what I did:

Let me start by saying you can roast any kind of vegetable.  I just chose these because it's what I had on hand.  But, feel free to throw in some zucchini or eggplant, whatever you've got.


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 box penne pasta (any cut will do)
dried oregano and basil
6 Roma tomatoes
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic (leave skins on the garlic)
Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup water
olive oil (or canola or vegetable oil)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.  Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise.  Leaving root end in tact (this keeps it from falling apart), cut onion into quarters.  Leave garlic cloves in their skin (don't peel them).  Place all veggies on a cookie sheet (with sides).  Drizzle oil over them (not too much - just enough to coat them lightly).  Season with salt/pepper.  Rub them so they are evenly coated.  Lay tomatoes cut side down.  

Roast the veggies in the oven for 2 hours, turning the tomatoes over after 1 hour.  This is what they look like when done:

*This can be done ahead of time and refrigerated until needed.

After veggies are done, cook pasta.  Meanwhile, season cubed chicken with salt/pepper, oregano and basil.  Brown the chicken in a little oil in a big skillet or pot.  Remove chicken and drain any fat from skillet.  

Remove skins from garlic.  Place garlic, onions and tomatoes in a blender or food processor.  Puree to make a sauce.  Pour sauce into skillet.  Add 1/4 cup of water.  Return chicken and bring to a simmer.  Let cook for 5-10 minutes.  Season to taste.  When pasta is done, drain and add to the skillet.  Stir to coat the pasta with the sauce.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese before serving.

You won't believe what a difference roasting makes!  This sauce is fantastic!

You don't have to use chicken.  You could use Italian sausage or meatballs or sauteed eggplant or just go plain sauce with cheese.  You can use it for pizza, calzones, lasagna or as a dipping sauce for bread sticks.  Anyway you make it, you'll love it.  

So, hit the produce market and get yourself some tomatoes.  They are down-right cheap in the summertime!  You can make a ton of this sauce for almost nothing.  I suggest making a lot when you do.  If you're gonna take the time to do it, you might as well have some extra to freeze.  Just let it cool down, then put it in freezer bags or freezer containers and pop it into the freezer.  Then, just thaw it when you need it.  It is leaps and bounds above anything you get in a jar!  And, as you can see, almost as easy. 

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