Have you ever watched an episode of Food Network’s “Chopped” or “Iron Chef”. You see these chefs preparing complex dishes that include a lot of ingredients and a lot of different flavors. This isn’t a bad thing. But sometimes it’s nice to have a simple dish that is delicious, full of flavor, but not so complex. I was inspired a couple weeks ago, when watching another Food Network show “Rachel vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off”. This show pits two teams of C-list celebrities together in various cooking competitions. One week they had 3 one on one contests, in which a judge from the show “Chopped” each picked a dish for them to cook. One of the dishes was a simple tomato pasta. The judge wanted the tomato to be the star of the dish. I decided to take on the same challenge in my own kitchen. I had in my fridge a package of Nasoya Chinese Style Noodles. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them, until I thought of doing a simple basic tomato & basil pasta dishes. And what came out of my kitchen as a result of my inspiration was a favorite of both my wife and my kids.
1 package Nasoya Chinese Style Noodles (Bucatini pasta would also be a good option)
2 28-Ounce cans of whole peeled tomatoes (Italian or San Marzanos if you can get them)
A handful of fresh basil, chopped
1 whole head of garlic
freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated Parmesan, Romano, Asiago, or Dry Jack cheese (whatever your favorite hard cheese is)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Take your head of garlic and cut off enough of the top to expose the cloves. Add a little bit of olive oil. Cover in heavy duty foil. Roast for about a half hour or until the garlic is soft.
In the meantime, empty two cans of tomatoes into a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer to soften up the tomatoes. The goal is to get the tomatoes to a point in which you can mash them with a spoon. I then run the smashed up tomatoes and all the liquid through a food mill. The purpose is to really get rid of the seeds. The seeds can add bitterness to the sauce if you leave them in. Yes you could cut the tomatoes and remove them, but since I have a food mill I find this to be much easier.
Now it’s time to transfer your tomatoes to a large nonstick frying pan. Add the chopped basil. Take your roasted garlic and remove all the cloves. Smash them into a paste and then add them to the tomatoes. Bring the tomatoes to a boil and simmer until reduced to your desired thickness, remembering to stir often. Once you get there add kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Turn your burner to low to keep the sauce warm, while you prepare your noodles or pasta.
Boil your noodles or pasta in a large pot with about a gallon of water and salt. The water should taste like ocean water. Cook the pasta or noodles to your desired doneness. Nasoya Chinese Noodles only take a few minutes, since they are not a dried pasta. When the noodles are ready, do not drain them!. Grab a pair of tongs and place the noodles directly into the sauce, making sure to let excess water drip off before you do. You don’t want to lose any of the starch that on the outside of the pasta. Then all that is left is serve up, topped off with your favorite grated hard cheese.
It’s a simple dish that allows the tomato to shine. The roasted garlic just heightens the flavor, adding sweetness without the use of sugar, which I normally turn to when using canned tomatoes for sauce. Not to mention garlic is good for you!