Tomato-Butter Pasta Sauce

10 04 2010

I decided to get on the boat. This seems to be the food-blogger trendy dish of the year… super simple tomato sauce with spaghetti that’s just canned tomatoes stewed with a whole onion and some butter. Does it live up to the hype? Yes.

There’s a lot of talk going around about this super simple tomato sauce and I felt like I had to give it a shot because there was just no way it could be as good as they said. But damn, it is. I had a bunch of roasted garlic around so I tossed a head of it in to add a little bit more flavor.

The sauce is literally – canned whole tomatoes (San Marzano if you have em), unsalted butter, a whole onion and some salt to taste. Despite the fact that I will literally eat straight hog fat cured and sliced by itself, I still for some reason have this weird aversion to using too much butter… I’m all “oh but too much butter seems so excessive and fatty”… dude, you eat straight pig fat! Shut up and use it! Trust me, it’s worth it. This is like some grown up fancy Chef Boyardee shit. It’s good.

I also busted out some super easy super quick fresh spaghetti the other night so if you really want to impress your date, break out the food processor and let it rip. Once you’ve done it a few times it’s really so easy and so much better that it’s kindof stupid to ever buy noodles again.

Tomato Butter and Onion Pasta Sauce
Adapted from the inter web.

This is like some voodoo magic type shit. It’s so easy and so good it just doesn’t seem right…

1 large can San Marzano whole tomatoes (if you can’t find those just use whatever you can get your hands on)
1 whole onion – yellow, red, white, whatever… I use yellow for just about everything
3-5 tablespoons of unsalted butter, depending on how rich you want it
Salt to taste
I whole head of roasted garlic if you so desire

Slice the onion in half, toss it all in a sauce pan and simmer it for about 40 minutes or so until the tomatoes have broken down. Smash them up with a wooden spoon as you stir it up throughout the cooking. When it’s finished just pull out the onion and it’s ready to go.

The amount of time that it takes for that sauce to simmer is more than enough to make some fresh pasta to pour it over. You’re saving so much work with this sauce, why not give it a worthy base?

My laziness works in funny ways… I was feeling too lazy to bring myself to take a book from the shelf and look up a pasta dough recipe so I just googled for the easiest recipe to divide down to get an egg to flour ratio and then adapted that ratio to what I know works well in dough… the ratio is basically 1 egg per 100 grams of flour – that’s all that is absolutely necessary. The oil makes it easier to work with and the salt helps the flavor.

I use Tipo ’00’ Italian pasta flour but you can just use regular all-purpose flour too or a mixture of that and cake flour. People always claim it makes a big difference but so far I’ve never had anyone spit out their pasta because the flour wasn’t fine enough.

Fresh Basic Pasta Dough

This is a small batch – (about 4 servings) but you can just scale it up as necessary – the beauty of fresh pasta dough is that it’s so flexible and adaptable. Similarly, if you want it richer you can just substitute more egg yolks for some of the whites.

200 grams tipo “00” flour or all-purpose or a mix of all-purpose and cake flour
2 large eggs
About a teaspoon of olive oil
A pinch of salt

Toss the flour in the food processor and then everything else on top. Pulse it until you have crumbles and then dump them onto your counter and knead it into a nice smooth mass. If you don’t have a food processor, make a pile of flour on the counter, make a well in the center and mix the eggs, salt and oil in with a fork. Knead for a couple of minutes to get it all mixed and smooth and then wrap it in plastic and throw it in the fridge for a bit to chill out and stiffen up.

Roll it out with a pasta machine or a rolling pin or a wine bottle or baseball bat… whatever you have. Make sure you flour it well before you start rolling though.

Cut it up with the cutter on your machine or roll the sheets long ways and slice it into noodles.

This whole process can literally be done in a matter of minutes. This pasta, start-to-finish took me about 15 minutes. That’s barely more than it takes to boil dry noodles! You can make the dough while you’re waiting for the water to boil.

Spoon that sauce over your spaghetti and get busy. You can toss on some parm if you want but it really is fine just the way it is. I threw a little pecorino and some black pepper on top.

Cuban Roast Chicken + Crack Sauce

24 03 2010

And now, back to the bird. Every so often I get a serious craving for this chicken… The thing I miss the most about lunch in New York is Sophie’s. If you live there and you haven’t been, do yourself a favor and go for lunch sometime. If you work anywhere near the financial district and you haven’t been… shame on you.

The chicken part of this dish is, in the end, just a supporting role. The sauce is the real star, the reason you eat at Sophie’s at all (other than the roast pork, of course). The meat is great, but don’t kid yourself – the reason you’re eating it is just to get the green sauce into your mouth. We called it the crack sauce. I’ve googled and searched and can’t find a solid explanation anywhere of what it is. I decided to take a shot and see if I could make it happen. It’s been a while so it wasn’t so fresh in my memory but the taste of that sauce is pretty tough to forget.

The dish is simple and you don’t have to do much but the important part is that all of these simple bits have some flavor. Chicken, rice, beans, plantains, carrots and sauce. That’s it. Nothing complex and definitely not rocket science. Don’t mess with chicken breast though – go for the legs/thighs and be happy that you’re eating chicken with some flavor. “Wa wa dark meat is fatty bla bla bla” – you’re eating chicken! It’s not like it’s beef. Shut up and eat the good stuff and leave those dry flavorless breasts for the people who don’t know any better. If you have a problem eating dark meat, you should probably be eating tofu anyway…

Cuban Roast Chicken with the Crack Sauce

Skin-on chicken leg & thigh pieces
A little lemon juice

3-4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 jalapenos (I used canned but fresh would be even better as long as they’re hot)
Cilantro – a little or a lot, however you like it
Lime juice from half a lime
2-4 tablespoons plain yogurt (I used Trader Joe’s European Style)
Salt – a pinch

1 large can black beans (or cook some dry beans – obviously better but canned are fine too)
1/2 a medium onion (I use yellow ones)
2-4 cloves garlic
1 jalapeno (again, I used canned but fresh is good too)

Ripe plantains

1/2 brown, 1/2 white, cooked with a couple cloves of garlic and some salt

And you can toss a couple of carrots in the roasting pan too if you like carrots – they go well and they’re good for your eyes, right?


First things first – get the rice steaming. If you don’t have a rice cooker and you make rice more than once a month – buy one. It’s an amazingly worthwhile investment and you’ll probably eat more rice because you have it.

Grind up the dry chicken seasoning (or mix if you’re just using ground spices), mix in a little lemon juice (it should still be fairly pasty) and rub it around under the chicken skin. Toss the bird in the oven at 350 for about 40 minutes. At that point crank it to 450 for another 5 or so minutes until the skin is brown and crispy.


While that’s working, you have plenty of time to fix up the rest.

The sauce was an experiment but it turned out great. It’s a creamy, green, garlicky, tangy, spicy *hot mess*. The sauce is creamy but I was at a loss as to what to use to get that consistency… Maybe it’s the Armenian in me… or no wait, there’s no Armenian in me… either way, yogurt was the first thing that came to mind. I’m not sure that it’s what they’d use in Cuba or at Sophie’s, but it got the job done… and got it done well. Add the yogurt a tablespoon or so at a time until you get a good consistency.

The Crack.

The beans get flavored with something like a sofrito, I guess. Just simmer the garlic, onion and pepper in some oil for about 10 minutes or so until it’s softened up and then toss in the beans and simmer until they’re nice and hot. Season with some salt.

At this point your chicken is probably halfway done or so. Take a minute to slice up those carrots however you want (I like to do big sticks where I basically just quarter them lengthwise) and then toss them in the roasting pan with the chicken. At this point you should have some fatty juices collecting in the bottom of the pan so you can try to slide them under the bird, maybe even lift the chicken pieces to get the carrots down in that juice.

The most crucial move when making plantains is choosing the right ones. You’ll be tempted to pick ones that are yellow, maybe even yellow with some dark spots – that’s because you’re used to choosing bananas. Put those ones back and grab a couple that look like they were forgotten at the bottom of the fruit bowl for a couple weeks. We’re talking black here. Soft, black and sweet – riiiipe. You see?

Slice em “on the bias” so you get some nice surface exposure to caramelize.

Sautee them in some vegetable oil (or butter if you’re feeling fatty… nothing wrong with a little butter). Sautee them in low to medium heat until they are nice and brown on each side. There’s no rule about flipping here, just get em brown.

They should look something like the shot below. The darker ones on top were actually better – a little bit crispy, good and caramelized, and still soft inside.

Toss those carrots around a little more and crank that oven heat for the last few minutes.

And then, you eat. And make sure you make enough to have some leftovers – you’ll want more tomorrow.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.