Fusili with Tomato Cream

3rd April, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Main Courses, Moderate, pasta

Tomato cream sauces can be wonderful, and are a great addition to the culinary repertoire, but often, they end up a little lacking in that wonderful tomato flavor that we crave. My approach is to turn the knobs to eleven, amping everything up, so that when the cream is added in the final steps, there’s still lots of tomato goodness, tons of flavor and amazing mouth-watering aromas. And, we’ll do it without tomato paste.

The method is simple, but requires a little attention. We’ll cook down and caramelize the tomatoes, add some sun-dried to amplify the flavors, and use an unexpected ingredient. (Even if you think you hate anchovies, try it my way. They add some body and depth, and amp everything up, but won’t make the sauce fishy; you won’t really taste them, but you’d notice if they weren’t there.)

Ingredients – serves 4

  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, oil packed (preferred) or reconstituted, chopped
  • 3 or 4 anchovy fillets
  • 1 24oz tin whole Roma or plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound fusili pasta
  • 1 cup parsley, chopped
  • Grana Padano or Parmesan, shredded

Method – active time, 30 minutes; total time, about 1 hour

Cover sund-dried tomatoes with boiling water, steeping for 10-15 minutes. Drain.

Mince onion, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, cut anchovy fillets into small pieces, and chop parsley.

Drain tinned tomatoes into a bowl, reserving liquid. Seed tomatoes, chop coarsely and drain excess liquid.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add 2T olive oil, and heat until just shimmering. Add the minced onion, and cook until just starting to color, about 8-10 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium, add the garlic and anchovies, and cook until aromatic, and the anchovies begin to disolve.

Add the sun-dried and chopped Roma or plum tomatoes. Cook until liquid is reduced and the tomatoes are beginning to caramelize, stirring as needed.

Deglaze with the vermouth.

Add the reserved liquid from the tomatoes, stirring well to incorporate.

Reduce heat to low, adjust seasoning – salt, pepper, red pepper fakes – and simmer gently for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When sauce is nearly cooked…

In a large saucepan, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil, adding 1 tablespoon of salt. Cook fusili until al dente. Drain, return to pot and toss with a little olive oil to coat.

Put it all together…

Once the pasta is ready, add 1 cup heavy cream to the sauce, stirring to incorporate, and gently heat. Do not boil.

Plate the pasta, ladle on sauce, top with freshly shredded Grana Padano, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

Graciously accept the inevitable accolades.

This is a fantastic dish, with rich tomato flavors, and great texture. You can puré the basic sauce before adding the cream if you prefer it smooth, but we like a more rustic, coarsly textured sauce, so we just smash the tomatoes with a fork as the sauce is cooking. Try it both ways!

There’s a fine line between caramelized and burned. Don’t cross it! Use your senses – your eyes, your ears, and especially your nose. When the aromas deepen and intensify, give it a stir. If things are sizzling, take the pan off the heat. When in doubt, err on the side of caution. You can’t reverse the bitterness of burned sugars.

Fusili holds a lot of sauce. Be generous!

This will serve up to eight as a pasta side, or four as a main. Either way, expect your guests to want seconds, and be prepared.

Serve a little fresh arugula salad tossed with a light vinaigrette and sprinkled with a little of the cheese as a nice finish!

Of course, the sauce can be used anywhere a tomato cream is required. Explore!

One Response

  1. Scott Says:

    I have prepared this sauce twice so far. It gets high marks all around! It’s got a really intense tomato flavor. take a little taste just before you add the cream….it’s wonderful.

    It’s really worth it to take your time and make sure you get the tomatoes to caramelize. But be careful you don’t burn them.

    My wife had been asking me to make an old Vodka sauce that I used to make a few years ago…..I’m so glad I found this one instead….and so is she!