It’s funny how lately, I have been going back and forth from craving winter comfort food, to light and healthy dishes. Some days, I want a big, hearty dish full of meat, carbs and cheese. Other days, I am happy with just a simple quinoa dish or salad. I think everything is just out of whack with this never ending winter. We have had so much snow this winter that we ran out of room for the plow! We had to hire someone with a tractor to come and push/pile the snow along the driveway, mailbox and parking spots. The mail even stopped delivering our mail because they couldn’t access it anymore because it got frozen and the snow was piled too high. Amazing!
This dish is definitely a wonderful indulgent comfort food. Cheesy, saucy and full of carbs. Perfect in my book! I made this one cold winter’s evening with a side of massaged kale caesar salad (recipe to come), and it was the perfect meal. This would make the perfect dish on a winter’s day spent out in the cold.
Cheesy Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce
Yield: about 8-10 servings
For the roasted tomatoes
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
- kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
For the pasta
- 16 oz. pasta (I used gemelli)
- 1 (28 oz.) can peeled whole tomatoes, with juices
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 6 oz. mozzarella, cubed
- 1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream
- Minced fresh basil, to finish
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Toss the cherry tomatoes with the olive oil, kosher salt and sugar in a medium bowl. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes, stirring twice during cooking. Remove from the oven, but don’t turn the oven off, and let cool.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the pasta to the pot and cook according to the package directions, stopping 2 minutes before the recommended cooking time. Remove from the heat and drain well.
Meanwhile, adjust the oven temperature to 400ºF. Add the tomatoes with juices to a blender (or use an immersion blender) and pulse until mostly smooth. Melt the butter in a large oven proof skillet over medium heat. Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes and tomato paste and cook just until fragrant and the tomato paste begins to brown, about 1 minute. Pour in the puréed tomato mixture, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer until the sauce is reduced by nearly half and thickened, about 6-8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cream.
Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the cooked pasta, mozzarella, and oven roasted tomatoes. (If your skillet is too small, just use any greased baking dish that will fit everything.) Transfer to the oven and bake 10-12 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Remove from the oven, let cool a few minutes, then top with the basil and serve warm.
Source: Adapted from Annie’s Eats