It’s pasta Wednesday today. Which means playing around with new ideas, which I especially love doing when cooking any kind of pasta or noodle dish. Whenever I pick up a can of crushed tomatoes, all I think of is marinara which is one of my favourite sauces to bathe my pasta in. I’m doing the same this evening as I pull out a box of organic spaghetti from the kitchen cabinet and start assembling the ingredients. I’m keeping it vegetarian, vegan, just simple flavours of tomatoes, fresh veggies, garlic and dried herbs from my pantry.
The interesting part : I’m adding a couple of twists of my own to the marinara sauce. The good news, I’m trying to keep it figure friendly. So no cream, no mascarpone or any dense cheesiness, just a light sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese as a final touch to the dish. What’s different in this recipe is that I decide to add a creamy texture by incorporating almonds to the sauce. It’s a great dish for kids too who enjoy eating pasta.
The base of any traditional tomato marinara sauce, is made up of carrots, celery and onions. I’m doing the same, except using another technique to incorporate this trinity. I blanch or rather gently boil the carrots and celery to soften them a bit. After which I grind them along with the almonds to a smooth sauce, which I then directly add to the tomato base. Hope it’s not sounding too complicated, which its not, so let’s just go straight to the recipe, shall we!…
Crushed canned tomatoes – 4 cups. Or if using fresh tomatoes, blanch 4 tomatoes, remove skins and purée or crush the tomatoes.
2 carrots, roughly chopped
3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 cup chopped onions
1 tsp. crushed dried herbs. A mix of oregano, basil and thyme
1 tsp. paprika
Olive oil – 1 tbsp.
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the almond marinara sauce :
Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Add onions. Add dried herbs, red chilli flakes and garlic. Sauté on medium heat. Stir, making sure garlic doesn’t brown.
In the meantime, heat another pot of water alongside, a little water say a cup. Bring to a boil. Add the carrots and celery. Simmer on low for 5-7 minutes till they soften. Add this to a food processor along with the almonds and purée to a smooth paste. Set aside.
Back to the skillet, once the onions soften, add the tomatoes. Add paprika. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the carrots-celery-almond mixture. Add salt and pepper, to taste and simmer for 15 minutes.
Cook the spaghetti. Al dente or slightly firm to the bite is my preference. Toss with the creamy marinara sauce. Add parsley and Parmesan cheese. Serve hot straight from the stovetop to the dinner table!