You know how when you make a tomato sauce and there’s all of those dark red or purple bits on the side of the pan? I want to make this sauce taste like that.
–Michael on the way home from Fairway after I nagged him to death about his super-secretive sauce idea.
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I wish I had some profound reason for our collective silence, but to be honest, it boiled down to not feeling terribly inclined to write about food. The Thanksgiving holiday leaves me with nothing to say about holiday cooking since we’re not the ones cooking it, and we have to travel, and frankly I’m over writing about various squashes and how good they are with sage and rosemary and waxing endlessly on the deliciousness of roasted vegetables.. Yeah–they are all awesome. We know that. Let’s move on.
Over the course of the fall Michael and I have been tweaking red sauces fairly often, in part to rebel against the beige-ness of what tends to be made this time of year. This is a dish that evolved from that culinary puttering (see Michael’s quote above) as well as a very intense desire to have a sun-dried tomato pesto with orecchiette after a rather silly conversation on Twitter (see the #pastawar tag to see what I mean). Michael completely ran with it and flatly refuesd to give me the details of what he was thinking as he gathered ingredients at Fairway. Bastard. But I trusted him because he had a vision, and that vision included prosciutto di Parma, and there was no way I was going to object to any of it.
What I love most about this sauce I think is how weird it is: it’s not a traditional red sauce by any stretch of the imagination, nor is it in any shape a pesto, but it works–and more importantly, it works without needing to get a lot of exotic or incredibly expensive ingredients (OK, the veal stock may not be readily available, but everything else should). It’s also not terribly difficult: you saute the garlic, add in the tomato paste, stock, wine, Worcestershire and oyster sauces and let it reduce, reduce, reduce until it’s a thick, deep-brick-red color. Let it cool, then puree with the dried tomatoes and tarragon and toss with freshly cooked orechiette and the prosciutto.
Orecchiette with Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for pureeing
- 6oz tomato paste
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 cup veal or chicken stock
- 1/4 cup oyster sauce
- 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 8 oz sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- 4 oz tarragon, stemmed with stems reserved
- 1 lb orecchitte
- Kosher salt
- Grana Padano, grated
- 8 oz of prosciutto di Parma, sliced (but get it sliced a little thicker than you would normally so it doesn’t completely fall apart).
Bring the olive oil to medium heat in a small saucepan and add the garlic. Saute until fragrant, and then add the tomato paste, cooking for a minute or two, and then deglaze with the stock, red wine, Worcestershire and oyster sauce, add in the onion powder, stir to combine and let it simmer and reduce for about a half-hour or so–the idea is that you want to get it to a nice, deep red color and it will go back to being a paste rather than a sauce. Remove from the heat, and either in a food processor or an immersion blender cup combine the mixture with the tomatoes and tarragon and blend until a smooth paste.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil, salt it well, and cook orecchiette to package directions, about 8-11 minutes. Reserve at least a cup of the starchy pasta water as the pasta cooks. When al dente, drain the pasta and return to the pan, stirring the red sauce into the orecchiette (and use some of the pasta water to help the sauce coat if needed) along with the prosciutto. Serve immediately in pasta bowls with grated Grana Padano.