When it comes to comfort food, it’s tough to beat a warm, heaping bowl of pasta with creamy tomato sauce and melted cheese. This was a perfect meal for a week when the weather has been schizophrenic, with short bursts of freezing rain or hail almost every day. Last week it seemed that spring was here or at least right around the corner, and now we are all left puzzled and cold! This week I’ve been back to winter coats and rain boots, but hopefully that won’t last too much longer. This pasta, on the other hand, I might want to keep enjoying well into the warmer temps.. shh, don’t tell.
I like to make this with simple chicken breasts and a green salad. I usually brown the chicken breasts first in the same skillet that I’ll use to make the pasta sauce, which gives the sauce an added dimension of flavor. (Naturally you would skip this if you were looking for a vegetarian option!)
The pasta, of course, is the main event here. The mascarpone gives the sauce a delightful texture, creamy without being too heavy, and a sprinkle of parmesan and basil is the perfect finishing touch. Wonderful comfort food for what I sincerely hope is winter’s last gasp!
Tomato Mascarpone Pasta
Yields approximately 6 servings
16 oz. pasta
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/3 cup red wine
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 oz. mascarpone cheese
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
a handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped, for garnish
Boil water in a large stockpot and cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Drain thoroughly and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and cook for approximately 5 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the minced garlic, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes, then cook for about 2 minutes, just until the garlic is fragrant and the mixture begins to brown.
Add the wine to the pan and scrape any browned bits from the bottom. When most of the moisture has bubbled off, add the crushed tomatoes along with the Italian seasoning. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and partially cover the pan. Allow to cook partly-covered for 10-15 minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly.
When the sauce has thickened, turn the heat very low. Stir in the mascarpone and half of the grated parmesan; swirl to melt the cheeses. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, then mix pasta into the sauce. Garnish with fresh basil and additional parmesan. Serve (and devour) right away.