It’s Christmas Eve and the neighborhood is looking really pretty. Yards are draped with multicolored lights and inside windows you can catch glimpses of ornamented Christmas trees. It’s all quite picture-perfect except at the malls, I’m sure, where it’s a mad rush and you won’t catch me within a mile of those during this season (or most times, for that matter).
I was planning to post some more cookie recipes for you last week, but my oven went on the fritz and will remain quite useless until next week when the repair service arrives. Everything works a little slower around the holidays, but how could anyone be mad about that?
It’s probably a good thing too, because I had been on a bit of a sugar high these past few weeks with all that cake- and cookie-baking. Having to rely solely on my cooktop and my tiny toaster oven for all my cooking, I’ve gotten a little ahead of myself and started coming up with healthy recipes in anticipation of that inevitable New Year resolution: weight loss.
You know I like to cook healthy most times, but I am not one of those people who can stomach bland albeit wholesome food. I love food, and I like it to be delicious: a luxurious treat for my tastebuds. My Pappardelle Pasta with Roasted Tomato Chipotle Sauce proves food does not have to be high-calorie to be rich, nor dripping with grease to taste great.
I combined ingredients from two strong yet diverse cuisines for this recipe: Mexican and Italian. The Roasted Tomato Chipotle sauce is a Mexican classic, made — as the name suggests– with roasted tomatoes and chipotle chilies, and it is a spicy, versatile sauce you can serve with enchiladas, tacos, burritos, or even as a chip dip.
To adapt this sauce for pasta I stuck with the traditional recipe and then, at the very end, I added some cashew cream to mellow out the spicy sting. It was perfect. Keeping up with the roasted veggie theme and to balance the spice, I roasted a trio of sweet, multicolored bell peppers and added them to the pasta along with some sweet basil.
This is an easy and quick recipe, and the only time you need to make it is to roast the veggies and boil the pasta, but most of that does not require constant monitoring. There’s also almost no added fat in here, except the 1/2 tsp olive oil in the recipe and some healthy fat from the cashews. But no one would ever be able to tell, because the flavors are so bold and rich.
I used Pappardelle, a broad ribbon that is one of my favorite pastas, but fettucini would also be great for this sauce.
A quick note about toaster ovens: I rarely use mine to make toast, and more often to roast, heat and brown foods– stuff I don’t need precise temperature control for, like I would for baking a bread or cake. It turns out to be more energy efficient too because toaster ovens are much smaller than regular ovens and heat up much faster.
I’ll leave you with all of my best wishes for a lovely, lovely holiday and a very merry Christmas. May all be well with the world.
Pappardelle Pasta with Roasted Tomato Chipotle Sauce
(Makes four servings)
1 8-oz package pappardelle pasta. Cook until al dente per package instructions.
2 large ripe tomatoes.
2 jalapeno peppers (use one or skip altogether if you want a milder sauce)
1/2 chipotle chili in adobo sauce
5 cloves garlic, skins on
1/2 tsp olive oil
Salt to taste
1/4 cup cashews, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes, then ground into a fine, very smooth paste.
10-12 leaves of Italian basil, torn
Heat a heavy skillet and then place the whole tomatoes on it. If your skillet is large enough, place the jalapenos and the garlic cloves with skins on in the skillet too. If not, roast these one at a time.
Roast the tomatoes until the skin starts to char and brown spots appear. Turn them around and let them cook on all sides until the skin is fairly browned. Do the same for the jalepenos and the garlic.
Remove everything to a plate. I like to roast the tomatoes further in an oven to intensify the sweetness. So cut the tomatoes in half and put them in an oven-safe dish, cut side up, and place in a 500-degree preheated oven for 20 minutes.
Once the tomatoes cool, place them in a blender along with the jalapeno peppers (deseed them if you are sensitive to heat) and the chipotle chili. Peel the garlic and add it to the blender too.
Blend the tomatoes into a puree. You don’t need to add more water– there’s enough liquid in the tomatoes to help you along.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the tomato-chipotle mixture to the skillet and cook until it is reduced to the consistency of tomato paste and has become darker, about 8-10 minutes.
Add the cashew cream and mix well.
Add salt to taste. You can also add some ground black pepper for more flavor, but I find that there is already enough heat in the sauce.
Add the cooked pasta, basil, and strips of roasted bell peppers (instructions below) and toss.
Roasted bell peppers:
3 medium bell peppers (use any color. I used one red, one green, and one yellow)
Place the bell peppers in an oven-safe dish with deep sides (don’t use a flat plate because some juices might run from the peppers).
Preheat an oven to 500 degrees. Place the peppers in the oven and let them roast, turning them occasionally, until the skin is evenly brown and charred.
Cool the peppers and then peel off the skin and remove seeds. Cut into thin strips and add to the pasta.
Nutrition estimate per serving: Calories 368, Total fat 8.6 grams, Dietary fiber 4.9 grams, Sugar 2 grams, Protein 12.6 grams