Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tomato Pasta Sauce (With Pumpkin)

A few days ago, I tweeted that I had a very crappy lunch at a family chain restaurant. I hadn't eaten there in ages, and that meal reminded me why. The fish was badly prepared - panfried for the purpose of merely cooking, and being neither browned nor crisp around the edges. The oil they used had obviously been frying something else prior. The fusilli that came with it was flavourless and hardened. The peach cake tasted neither peachy nor cakey. Worse, it was served with generous lashings of commercially-made, medicinal-tasting fruit puree.

"Just like airplane food," my daughter remarked. I disagree - Singapore Airlines serves way better food.

I know we are never going back again. EVER.

I also realised something else: I seldom eat bad food, and when I do, it shocks my system. Most of the time, I eat at home. Simple fare, no doubt, but fresh and unprocessed. And that alone, makes all the difference. When I do eat food outside of home, I usually go to my favourite hawker stalls where I know I will be assured of flavourful streetfood, or at quality (not necessarily expensive) restaurants.

But yes. Sometimes, I foolishly veer off the familiar path and walk straight into hell's kitchen.

I am honestly perplexed how some eateries refuse to make the effort to serve real food. If we - untrained home cooks - can whip up decent meals in our own kitchens, why can't these places - manned by trained chefs, mind you - do better? Tsk, tsk, tsk.
(Actually, I already know the answer: because there are many people out there who can't tell good from bad nosh. Or who choose ambiance over food.)

All right then, end of rant. I just needed to get that out before I move on to today's recipe.


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Now, usually when I cook tomato-based pastas, I would rely on this recipe. It's a great recipe, as long as the tomatoes used are very ripe and sweet. If they aren't, you'd get a rather tart sauce which you'd then have to add some sugar to take the edge off the sharpness.

BUT, today's version knocks the socks off every other Tomato Pasta Sauce I have ever made! And the secret ingredient? Pumpkin!

I bought a wedge of pumpkin at the market, just so that I wouldn't have to continue listening to the lady boss go on and on about the benefits of this vegetable. When I got home, I suddenly had the idea of incorporating it into tomato puree for a pasta sauce. And it turned out so amazingly smooth, sweet and velvety, I knew I had hit the jackpot with this one.

Here are the ingredients you need (enough for 2 servings of pasta):
- 300g pumpkin (more or less won't hurt), skinned and cut into large chunks and steamed till fork tender
- 200g passata (again, more or less won't hurt)
- Salt to taste
- 1/4 white onion, diced very finely
- 1 clove garlic, minced very finely
- Some extra virgin olive oil


Ignore my youngest. He is just doing what he does best - being effortlessly cute. ^.^ (And blocking my sunlight!)

1. Puree the steamed pumpkin using a wire sieve. Leave aside. In the meantime, heat up a shallow pan with a drizzle of olive oil, and saute the onions and garlic until the onions have softened but not browned.


I have been using this brand of passata for years because I like that they use only Italian tomatoes which are free from skin and seeds, and contain nothing else but tomatoes and salt. I usually get mine from NTUC or Giant.

2. Bring out your passata and add it to the onions/garlic. I used about half the bottle (about 200g). Now, add in the pumpkin puree and stir to mix well. Next, add salt. Let the sauce bubble and simmer for about a minute. If the sauce is too viscous, thin it out with some water.


Your sauce is ready! BTW, like my new tasting spoon? :)

You will notice that the consistency is creamy and velvety, and adheres really well to the pasta strands. And the natural sweetness which balances the tartness of the passata? Perfect. All thanks to the humble pumpkin. :) It's the thickening and sweetening agent ... and one that is very good for you. You can use this sauce for pasta or lasgana or as a base for other dishes.


My sweet friend Monique obviously expects big things from me. ;) Merçi again, Nana! I am a chef in my own kitchen, I am. :) But first, I have to keep this beautiful tasting spoon away from little hands.


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I cooked my pasta the same time I was sautéing the onions, and it was ready when the sauce was simmering. I drained the pasta, added it to the sauce in the pan, and then tossed to mix well before transferring to a serving plate. Top it off with a sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese and parsley before serving.

I hope you'll all try making this. I am mighty proud of this sauce because it really tastes awesome and because I can now make my children eat more pumpkin without them even knowing ... muahahahaha! :)

39 comments:

  1. ju, that look very professional cooked and mouthwatering! (:

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  2. "Just like airplane food," my daughter remarked. I disagree - Singapore Airlines serves way better food. - Good one, Ju! Hahaha.

    And I love the spoon!

    Will definitely cook some spaghetti soon.

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  3. I know what you r saying. Having been away from home for the large part of this month, I miss home cooking and simple fair. I like puree pumpkin sauce, a lot. Used mine with lots of garlic + toasted seaweed over udon. Adding it to pasta is lovely, too!

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  4. I like the last striked out line. How is the clip on the tasting spoon used? Just curious...

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  5. I agree with you and I too am perplexed by some restaurants that seem happy to serve bad food, but more often I am annoyed that the vegetarian menu seems to be on the receiving end of that. It seems far too many chefs rely on meat to be the star of the dish and don't know what to do when required to make a vegetarian meal that is delicious and interesting. When I go out to eat I want better than I can cook at home, or why bother?

    Anyway, your pasta looks delicious. It's wonderful how simple things like pasta and a tomato based sauce when cooked well can taste amazing.

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  6. I agree with you that is why I don't eat out, it is too ghastly unless you pay a lot of $$ and even then it is not always up to par; this pasta sauce is amazing, love pumpkin and now I have one more reason to use it!

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  7. This looks yummy. I think would be suitable for my toddler since pumpkin is used :) May I know where to get Passata? Thanks!

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  8. Why can you get the passata? Can't wait to try this out.

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  9. gah, I had similar experience too recently...
    Very nice way of incorporating veg into your little ones' diet!

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  10. Pick Yin: Meant to be clipped to the chef's uniform.

    Jennifer: Vegetarians AND children! Kids get stuff like nuggets and hotdogs to "choose" from. Why can't they serve them mini portions from the adult menu?? Bingo "When I go out to eat I want better than I can cook at home, or why bother?"

    TasteofBeirut: EXACTLY!

    daydreamer/Jen: I updated my post, thanks to your queries - I get mine from NTUC or Giant. HTH.

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  11. Love the shot of your son sniffing the puree! Yes I totally agree with everything you've said. Sometimes, the effort of going out to eat is just not worth it!

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  12. This recipe is definitely a keeper as it can be done within 30mins for quick lunch ideas. And most importantly it used nature sweeten ingredient like pumpkin which is good for the kids too :) Thanks.

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  13. That's pretty bad when airline food is better than a restaurant! I think your addition of pumpkin to the tomato sauce is brilliant. A sweetener and a thickener in one, what a great idea.

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  14. love the way you plated the pasta :) and loveeee the spoon - it's super cute!

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  15. I LOVE this post! I love this post I love this post!

    He is so so cute! And I think pumpkin in Italian is genius..sending the link to jacques:)

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  16. super cute spoon! and thanks for sharing the tomato puree brand, i'm always at lost at the grocery aisle with the amount of selection. it's usually just trial and error and clearly i've not found any i fancy :P

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  17. Adoro la pasta e questa combinazione di ingredienti è davvero fantastica!
    Un abbraccio Daniela.

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  18. Dev'essere di un buono! Bellissime immagini! Un abbraccio

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  19. What a great creation! That bad food really worked up your system that you needed to vent it out huh? :D

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  20. Oh my the pasta looks delicious...but that sweet little boy ear, cheek , and neck look even more delicious!
    Love, love, love your spoon....you are a lucky girl!

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  21. I know what it feels like when you pay to get some food which turns out to be lousy.. :( I had that experience not long ago.. Your pasta looks absolutely comforting and delicious!

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  22. Ahh you are right when you say SIA food can be better than the food you find in some restaurants. When I go home I usually prefer to eat hawker food - it's cheap and good, what more could one want?

    Love the idea of this, this would have worked well on me when I was younger (ie when I didn't eat any vege besides carrots and beans). :P

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  23. And the more often we eat at home, the "fussier" our taste buds become ? - at least for me. I don't know, but 9 out of 10 eateries her serve "salty" food. I think it is their way of masking un-fresh food, un-real food, or in fact, they are serving processed food which needs salt to preserve the shelf life. That is why the more I eat at home, the more I will eat at home. LOL! But it is hard esp when there is only one person who does the cooking at home (me!) - sometimes I just get tired, lose the mojo etc.

    You made an excellent choice on the tomato puree - just what I will look for as well. Minimal ingredients and no ingredients that I can't pronounce. Plus, it is bottled in a glass(I think?) ;p

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  24. Ar pumpkin! Nice addition to pasta.
    I hate eating bad foods as well. Makes me feel crappy. But then I do enjoy the ocassional greasy burgers here ;)

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  25. i like mutti!

    This is such a brilliant idea, im going to try on my 15 mths old girl

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  26. Oh yes we like the tasting spoon! Pumpkin sauce is brilliant, Ju

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  27. U r soo right. It's the same reason why i rarely have take out chinese from food courts in Aus, or curry for that matter because it's probably from the jar (and we can do the same if not better at home- at least i hope! LOL).

    I love your spoon!! it's so adorable, is it a clip at the end?

    And pumpkin hey, I would have never guessed it. Gotta give it a try!

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  28. Omg, I lOVE your tasting spoon, how cool - I want one. The pumpking idea is genius, that must make such a nice creamy balanced sauce. ... And I know what you mean about bad restaurant food. Chains are the worst, I think people just like the familiar and they aren't used to good homemade food sadly. And your youngest is absolutely adorable!

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  29. i just tried this recipe today! I like it very much, my mom says the pumpkin sweetness offset the sour/tartness of tomato puree. however, they still find all my tomato base pasta a little on the sour side. Should i add some sugar to make it less sour? or reduce the amount of tomato puree?

    i thought i wouldn't be able to get Mutti Passata here (I'm fm Sarawak) and while checking out the pasta sauce shelf @ cold storage i spotted Mutti! I quickly grab a bottle. Came back online to cross check.. a little different coz the one i bought is passata di pomodoro al basilico.

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  30. Janice: Either way is fine - add some sugar OR reduce the passata. Or more pumpkin! ;)

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  31. wah ... so pumpkin is the secret ingredient! I would choose to eat your plate any time (real, good food). I have to check out that bottle of tomato puree.

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  32. What a healthy and interestingly flavored pasta! I like the way you twirled it, too.

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  33. i'm soooo gonna try this! my daughter hates pumpkin so this sounds like a great way to sneak it into her diet! :P

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  34. just discovered your blog, wow!

    pumpkin is a great idea to add to my regular tomato & pasta meals, thanks!

    also, yes i DO love your dessert spoon, might i ask where one might buy such a pretty utensil...?

    glass-of-fashion.blogspot.com

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  35. May I know where u buy your cutlery? I like the white plate n bowl! They r v nice! Thank u!

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  36. I tried making this tonight and I have to say, I think freshly steamed pumpkin vs. canned pumpkin will make a HUGE difference (unfortunately, I used the canned stuff - it was not very sweet and tasted kinda watered down). That being said, I've always thought that sauce cannot subsist of tomatoes alone (unless it simmers for a long time)...it just doesn't have the same depth and perplexity as if it contained some tomato paste

    The pumpkin DID act as a nice thickener though, and it worked so quickly! I'm gonna try this trick next time I make pasta sauce :)

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  37. hi great recipie ..
    have been failing to get my 8yr old boy to eat pupkin..now
    i will try this out..
    oh btw just to let you know that perhaps u dont know that the best mineral of the tomatoes are the skins and seeds , hence you may want to consider sauces that has it to enjoy the goodness of tomatoes

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  38. Just tried this recipe out, i had to puree the sauce to get it to the right consistency because i used whole canned tomatoes instead and didn't measure anything out, just used the amount i had (close enough to the original recipe and it looks the same as your's did) but other than that it was perfect :) i had mine over pasta but it could even just be a soup with a little added water! yummy, easy, quick and healthy :] thanks x

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