Really Easy Creamy Tomato and Basil Tortiglioni

  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Serves: 2
  • Level: easy
This is part of a series of really easy dishes - this one only take as long as the pasta does to cook. They're perfect for a quick supper after work or lunch or tea with the kids.

What you need

For two people

150g tortiglioni or penne pasta

50g pancetta cubes

1 tbs good olive oil

65g spring or salad onion – chopped using most of the green part

2 tbs red pesto sauce with tomatoes and garlic – or about 150ml passata

125ml chicken stock or water

2 tbs chopped basil

2 ripe tomatoes, quartered

80g frozen peas

80ml single cream

Dad's Recipe Tales

When we imagine a tomato-based Italian pasta sauce, we are likely to describe something thick and rich, like the classic Neapolitan built on a soffrito of onion, carrot and celery and flavoured with oregano and other herbs, or an Amatriciana, flavoured with onion, cured pork and pecorino cheese, or a spicy Arrabbiata made with garlic and chilli or a Puttanesca, a basic tomato sauce with added tuna, anchovies and capers. But one variation is rarely seen in Italian cookbooks is a sauce made with tomatoes and cream. This is odd as it is a sauce often found on restaurant menus or in cafes where the pasta sauces are prepared and displayed at a counter. Many would believe that cream and tomato is a taboo combination – the cream spoiling the purity of ripe tomatoes – or perhaps an abomination that is only tolerated when the quality of tomatoes is suspect. However, any doubters should consider the prevalence of cream of tomato soup or the Marie Rose sauce which brings together creamy tomatoes most successfully in a prawn cocktail or even the commercially similar Thousand Island dressing which can be found hiding under every high street burger bun. And if we need further evidence we only need to look at the combination of creamy mayonnaise and tomatoes at the heart of a BLT.

Of course the supermarkets are more interested in customer’s preferences than classic recipes and happily produce tubs of tomato and mascarponi cheese pasta sauces – in effect the same as tomato and cream. And perhaps the reason why people like the combination is because whilst a tomato is  sweet it is also acid – tomatoes without sweetness retain their sourness. Tomatoes from a tin can produce a sauce which can be rather harsh and it is always best to soften with soffrito and longer cooking – or the addition of a pinch of sugar, something Italian cooks add instinctively to their tomato sauces and ragus. A quicker route to mellowness is attained with the addition of cream as this recipes demonstrates rather well.

How Dad Cooked It

This sauce is built on an Italian ‘red pesto’ sauce, a commercial invention which provides a tomato version of a normal ‘green’ pesto. There is garlic and Parmesan which provide the background ‘pesto’ taste. This recipe makes no excuses for using a jar of pesto sauce to speed things along in the kitchen. However, the point of this recipe is the cream and tomato rather than the pesto – so by all means if you do not have a jar of pesto handy use passata instead.

To make dad’s tomato and basil tortiglioni:

  1. Make the pasta. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta until just about al dente and add the peas. Bring the water back to a boil and drain – reserving some of the cooking water.
  2. Make the sauce. Fry the pancetta in the oil on a medium high heat using a large frying pan or wok for about three minutes, add the spring onion and continue frying for three minutes. Add the tomatoes, pesto sauce and stock, stir and bring to a simmer and cook for two minutes. Add the cream and bring back to a simmer. Add the basil, pasta and peas. Stir and toss for two minutes until the pasta is well coated. If if looks dry add some of the reserved pasta cooking water. Serve immediately. Garnish with basil leaves and Parmesan if you like.

Tips: Try using other greens instead of peas, broccoli or green beans would work well. This pasta is also good with prawns or salmon mixed into the pasta.

If you like this tomato and basil tortiglioni recipe, give these a go: Marisa’s PastaLeftover Sausage and Pasta CasseroleVingnole Pasta or Tuna Penne Pasta.

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