Okay, made with penne instead
If there is a positive to ever only cooking for myself it’s the time factor. Really doesn’t matter if things take longer than expected as I’m perfectly happy to nibble on dried fruit or nuts. Purely because of that I can make this fairly simple sauce midweek and not have to care about plates having to be on the table at a set time. Which is just as well as this sauce took time. And quite a lot of faffing around with having to blend it, then rub it through a fine wire sieve to gain the consistency I wanted which was to cling on the pasta rather than the pasta having a swim. Having said that the pasta looks surprisingly dry in the photo. Even though this was wet enough for my lunch. And it doesn’t look very tomatoey pink, either. I guess I’m learning the hard way – should have kept a spoonful or two of the sauce to be able to dress the plate. I dumped the pasta straight into the pan with the sauce instead.
This is very loosely based on a dish a friend and I would invariably order in Café Alfredo’s, just around the corner from Cambridge Circus where ‘Les Mis’ used to be performed. That and sparkling water with a coffee before. Always the same. The charming Italian waitress one time held up our virtually clean plates and told us, loudly enough for the entire café to hear, that you really do have fantastic appetites as you’re the only people to ever clear their plates. Thankfully the café was closed with only one table still eating. They laughed, as well as my friend – after turning various shades of red. Just goes to show that those who are svelte can eat what they want, within reason. One of these days I’ll hopefully manage to find an authentic recipe for this dish. At the moment I’m being hacked every time I go online, persistently. It’s never until well after 11pm that I can surf with less hassle. Huh, by that time I’m usually too knackered to care!
Update: I’ve just had the chance of researching exactly what an Alfredo sauce would be and it’s nothing like this nor the version served in the café we used to go to. An Alfredo sauce is Parmesan cheese and butter served with fettuccine. This recipe is more like the hybrid we used to eat. I suppose there will be thousands of variations on a theme. Off course, now I’m curious…
- olive oil
- 300g (10.58 oz) x onions, cut in half, peeled, trimmed and chopped
- 1 x dried bay leaf, torn in half
- 3 x salad tomatoes, washed and sliced in half
- 2 x garlic cloves, trimmed, peeled and sliced
- ½ x celery stalk, washed, trimmed and cut into small dice
- 1 x pinch cayenne pepper
- 100ml (0.21 US pt lqd) x water
- ¼ x organic very low salt vegetable stock cube – optional
- single/light cream, to gain a consistency to personal taste
- 250g (8.81 oz) x chestnut or closed cup mushrooms, wiped and sliced fairly thin
- rigatoni pasta or any tubular pasta, cooked to the pack’s instructions
- nutmeg freshly and very finely grated, amount used to personal taste
- freshly grated Grana Padano or a favourite Parmesan, to serve.
Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.
- Put a large heavy-based saucepan on electric heat No 3 (out of 6) and when hot enough add enough oil to cover its base. Add the onions and bay leaf and stir through occasionally. After about 10 or 15 minutes reduce the heat to No 2 and continue to pan-fry, stirring through occasionally. If at any stage the onions look a little dry add a splash of water.
- Put a heavy-based pan on heat No 2 with a lid. When hot add a glug of oil and place in the tomatoes. Plonk on a lid for the first 15 minutes. After that I had to leave off the lid for 10, replace the lid for 10 until I got the tomatoes sufficently soft to be able to rub them through a fine wire metal sieve into the onions when golden.
- Place a pan on heat No 2 with a little oil. Add a little oil and diced celery. Allow to cook until soft. After that time add them to the onions.
- Either pan-fry the garlic with the tomatoes or onions. Next time I’m going to boil them with the pasta and mash them into the sauce. That way their flavour won’t be as strong.
- When the onions are nicely golden take off heat and add a pinch of cayenne pepper. Add the caramelised tomatoes into the onions by rubbing them through a fine wire metal sieve with a wooden spoon, discarding the pulp left in the sieve. Do collect all of the puree from under the sieve.
- Remove the bay leaves. Pour the water into the onion mixture, after prepping the stock if using a little bit of a vegetable stock cube. When cool enough to do so pour all into a blender or liquidiser and blend until smooth. Pour this back into the rinsed saucepan through a fine wire metal sieve, in batches. There will be quite a lot of pulp left because of the onions. Discard pulp. Put back on low heat and add single/light cream to gain the consistency wanted.
- By this time plenty of lightly salted water for the pasta can go on heat No 4, with the garlic if not pan-frying those. Do cook pasta to the pack’s instructions. Mine said 9 minutes, for al dente cook for a minute less.
- Before prepping the mushrooms get a heavy-based pan on heat No 3. When hot add some oil and throw in the sliced mushrooms. These don’t take very long to cook so perhaps put them in when the water for the pasta is boiling. Stir through the mushrooms often to get them nicely and evenly golden. Grate over a little freshly grated nutmeg. Less is more with it as it’s very pungent.
- Add everything to the sauce when pasta is cooked and serve with lots of Grana Padano or Parmesan. If there isn’t enough nutmeg within the sauce do add a pinch more to personal taste.
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