This creamy tomato pasta recipe is a special one. It’s one for my Papa.
My dad was a good cook, as long as you desired a big hearty plate of sunny side up eggs or creamy tomato sauce over pasta.
I remember all too well his tall frame hovering over the stove, always looking a little out of place, like a giant in a regular world. If I ever forget, all I’ll have to do is take one look at my brother, who, the older he gets, the more looks like dad.
Anyways, Papa. He would stand in the kitchen and season, re-season and taste his creamy tomato sauce as if it was a three star (no, not five stars; Michelin does three stars and hotels do five) restaurant dish.
He would shush my Mama away if she tried to have her say in the matter. Upon serving, I feel like the mandatory 90ies leaf of parsley would have been draped on top of the dish, but alas, I cannot say for sure.
The really beautiful ting about this story is that my Papa’s creamy tomato sauce was anything but a delicacy when it comes to its ingredients.
It’s not his invention either, so I apologize in advance to the iconic Swiss Betty Bossi, who, were she a real person, would single-handedly own the country.
It is a vile (but at the same time a tear-inducingly delicious) concoction of five ingredients, deceivingly called Cinque Pi, as if it had sprung from an earthy, dusty Nonna’s kitchen in the deep countryside of southern Italy.
Those five p’s are pomodoro, panna, parmigiano, pepe i prezzemolo, which is parsley, and I absolutely had to google to know.
“Pomodoro” sounds, again, deceivingly like fresh tomatoes, but don’t be fooled, it’s actually tomato paste. And yes, we’re the country of many cheeses, but I can assure you that “parmigiano” is synonymous to “pre-grated grana padano” here.
Add to that a hefty dose of cream and pepper and, congratulations, you’re fakitalianing it successfully.
But my mean words aside, Cinque P remains to this day one of the most comforting and warming meals to my soul. It was only a matter of updating it a little, adding a dash of sofritto and a pinch of hipster-esque newfangled vegan ingredients.
There really is no better smell to waft through you kitchen than that of onions and garlic gently cooking in olive oil, the husky sweet odors lingering under your nose. Add a few chopped sun-dried tomatoes and you’ve got yourself a recipe for success.
Red wine is a must in any tomato-based sauce for me, (but you already know that if you love my Garlic Butter Shrimp Pasta with Tomato Sauce) so in that goes, too. We’re not going fresh tomatoes, since we all have jobs to work at and children to keep alive and a life to tend to, so jarred chopped tomatoes it is.
A few aromatics simmering along in the sauce, a few minutes on a low flame (or more, if you have a minute to spare), and then the hipster magic happens: Cashew butter. A heaping tablespoon of chilled cashew butter, which sounds like voodoo magic but trust me, do it.
A little chiffonade of basil (which is really just the chic way of saying sliced), arugula on the side, and – for the sometimes-wannabe-vegans, only – a crumble of the last scraggly piece of (real) Parmigiano hiding in the back of the fridge.
It’s everything you want from a quick and dirty creamy tomato pasta, just better.
Sorry, Betty and Papa. Your way will always remain your legacy.
But mine? Mine is a celebration of cozy darkness and culinary impatience, one to bond an old stand-by with newfound pleasure, a dish of aromatic indulgence and dirty culinary secrets at the same time.
Papa, I know you’d love it as much as I always loved your carefully seasoned Cinque P ♡
15 Minute Creamy Tomato Pasta Recipe
- 4 cups penne pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion chopped
- 2 garlic cloves chopped
- 6 sun-dried tomatoes chopped
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 2 jars chopped tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1 sprig each fresh oregano, thyme and rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 heaping tablespoons cashew butter
- salt + pepper to taste
- arugula, parmesan (or vegan parmesan, or nutritional yeast - they all taste great on this pasta) and sliced basil to serve (optional)
- Get a pot of water cooking for the penne. Once it's boiling, add the pasta. Upon draining, reserve 1/4 cup of cooking water (or do it as I do and use a ladle to take away the liquid from the boiling pot directly into the sauce).
- In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Cook the onion, galric and sun-dried tomatoes until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Pour in the wine and simmer until it's almost gone.
- Stir in the chopped tomatoes, maple syrup, pasta cooking water, sprigs of herbs and bay leaf. Simmer for a few minutes (or more, if you have spare time).
- Remove the herbs. Stir in the cashew butter, season and serve over hot pasta with toppings. I will argue that arugula and basil are non-negotiable, but handle the pamesan-situation as you wish.