RECIPE: PASTA WITH ROSÉ SAUCE

A ROSÉ SAUCE IS BASICALLY A BLEND OF A TOMATO SAUCE AND A CREAM SAUCE. IT TYPICALLY CALLS FOR BUTTER, HEAVY CREAM, CHEESE. IN THIS RECIPE, I CUT ALL THAT AND SIMPLY USE TOFU TO CREAM THE SAUCE. IT WORKS. YOU MIGHT HAVE HAD BAD EXPERIENCES WITH TOFU, AND FOR GOOD REASON: OFTEN PEOPLE TRY TO PRETEND THAT IT’S MEAT, WHICH IT ISN’T. ALSO, GET THE RIGHT TOFU, NOT THE HIPPIE-MADE TOFU (BAD), BUT THE ASIAN-MADE TOFU (GOOD).

THIS WILL TAKE 45 MINS TO AN HOUR, AND FEED AS MANY PEOPLE AS A PACKAGE OF PASTA FEEDS. YOU COULD ALSO EASILY DOUBLE IT, AND IT’S GREAT LEFTOVER. -JRS

INGREDIENTS

Gather the following:

– 1 can of diced tomatoes
– 1 package pasta
– 5-6 cloves of garlic
– 1 carton of soft or silken tofu (340 g)
– 1 medium onion
– Tomato paste (you can use one of those small cans, no problem)
– Balsamic vinegar
– Olive oil
– Salt, pepper, chili flakes

NOTE: In a pinch, you can do this without the vinegar or paste.

The ingredients. Not shown: salt, garlic, oil.

PREP: SAUCE

Dice the onion and chop the garlic. Add to a medium-sized pot with a few tablespoons of olive oil—or, if you are cooking without oil, add some water instead—and toss in a light pinch of salt, some pepper, and a small pinch of chili flakes (optional).

Get a few tablespoons of tomato paste ready (about half a can, if you’re using that), and open the canned tomatoes. Place about 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. Place all of these next to your stove, within reach.

Heat the onions and garlic over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and stir for about a minute. Next, add the balsamic vinegar and keep stirring (if the mixture sticks, add a touch of water to loosen). You should smell the vinegar cooking off, a kind of harsh scent. That’s what you want.

Balsamic adds complexity, depth and sweetness.

After another minute, add the canned tomatoes. Toss in a good pinch of salt. Lower the heat, cover and let simmer for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Plonk.

Remove from heat, place on a heat-proof surface. Add the boxed tofu. Now it’s time to blend: I use an immersion blender (great tool; think mine cost only $30), but you could also do it in a normal blender, in batches.

Immersion blender at work.

You’ll end up with a very smooth, evenly coloured sauce.

The sauce, post-blending.

Now comes a very important step: tasting. (See my write-up on seasoning for general tips.) Taste the sauce. It likely needs more salt, and may need a touch more vinegar (i.e. acid). If so, add in small amounts, stir and taste again.

Depending on the tomatoes, the sauce may need a touch of sweetness; a tablespoon of ketchup helps. Try adding a bit more ground black pepper also; it’s a great counterbalance for any creamy sauce.

Once the sauce has been seasoned to your liking, return it to the stovetop.

PREP: PASTA

In a medium or large pot, add about 2.5 – 3 litres of water. Pour in a heaping tablespoon of salt. This step is critical: otherwise, your cooked pasta will be bland—and there’s not much you can do to remedy that. Seems like a lot of salt, I know, but most of that salt stays in the water.

Big tablespoon of salt = seasoned pasta.

Bring the water to a boil on the stovetop, then add the package of pasta. Follow the instructions for the cooking time. While you’re waiting, heat the sauce up again over low-to-medium heat.

The next important step: About two minutes before the cooking time ends, ladle about a cup of the pasta water into your sauce (the starch in the water helps the sauce cling to the pasta).

When the pasta is done, drain and add to the pot with the sauce. Stir, remove from heat, cover and let cool for a while (at least 20 minutes). As it cools, the pasta will soak up the liquid (and flavour) from the sauce, thickening it.

Bon appetit.

Pasta and sauce, newly acquainted.
Pasta and sauce, after 30 minutes of cooling.