Monday, November 11, 2013

A Simple Penne With Tomato Basil Cream (Gluten-Free Option, too.)

Sometimes, the simple recipes are the best. Quick pasta and sauce on a weeknight is just what works best for so many reasons. Time savings and convenience for a couple of them!

During a Saturday of shopping recently, Kimber and I stopped for a quick lunch at a local spot that's been around for a while - AND they feature a gluten-free menu. Right up my alley! Kimber ordered a salad. Since I can NEVER get pasta out and gluten-free pasta was a feature of this unnamed restaurant, I ordered penne with tomato basil cream and Italian sausage. Oops.

Restaurant pasta dish...why, oh why, couldn't it have been presented in a nice green dish?

Not that it wasn't "acceptable," it just wasn't prepared properly. To say the penne was oversauced was an understatement. The dish was more like a Velveeta-ish tomato soup with pasta and bits of sausage floating around in it. The good thing about it? It inspired me to go home and make it the right way! So I did. Here it is:

Penne with Tomato Basil Cream 
(Gluten-free option, too!)

  • 2 Italian sausage links, a nice sweet variety WITH fennel...mmmmmm

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and sliced
  • 5 basil leaves, fresh - julienned - plus additional for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 quart chopped tomatoes, jarred or canned - get the good ones...San Marzano!
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste, love the stuff in the waste like what's leftover in those itty bitty cans
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, or use half & half
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving - you know I want you to use the good stuff...Parmigiano Reggiano - worth every penny

  • 1 pound penne pasta, cooked al dente, drained well - to make this gluten-free, use a GOOD GF pasta like Jillian's or BiAglut

While you're making the sauce, saute the sausages until beautifully browned and cooked through

Tomato Basil Cream: Melt butter and olive oil together in a skillet, then add the onion, garlic, basil, red pepper flakes & salt. Cook slowly until the veggies are soft. Add the tomatoes & tomato paste, stir well, bring to a boil, reduce heat & simmer until gorgeous.

Bring out your stick blender once the sauce has come together nicely and give the sauce a nice whirl until all the veggies are pureed and you have a nice smooth sauce. Add the cream and the parm...stir until the parm is melted into the sauce and smooth. Taste, adjust seasonings and you're ready to dress your cooked pasta.

After your penne is cooked and drained, return it to the pot you cooked it in. Ladle enough sauce over the pasta to coat the pasta without OVERsaucing it. It should be kissed by sauce, not swimming it it. 

Slice the sausages. Plate the pasta, arrange the sausage around the plate, garnish with additional slivered fresh basil and additional parm, if you wish. 

Easy dinner, great leftovers!

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