This recipe came to me from a friend, Muriel whom I was very excited to also feature on my Women Who Smash Garlic and the Patriarchy blog. She shared this recipe which she wrote from memories of how her mother prepared it. As soon as I made it, I decided it is the “perfect pasta.” It’s sweet, salty, spicy AND umami- it has literally everything you could want!

On remembering her mom through this recipe she said:
“Food will always equal love to me, and for me there is no greater love in this world than the one between a mother and daughter. My mom is no longer with us but I feel that I can still be close to her by recreating her favorite dishes. Sometimes a smell of a tomato sauce or a sizzling chicken brings me right back to her and the kitchen of my childhood home. Some of my memories have faded, but food can always bring me back. I cook for those I love in the same way she did. It is the most precious lesson she gave me."

Penne with Gorgonzola

You’ll Need:
1 lb penne rigate
1 24 oz can diced tomatoes
1 16 oz can of crushed tomatoes (fire roasted if you can find them)
2/3 cup of olive oil
1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes (or less if you like it more mild)
4-5 cloves of garlic
Salt (to taste, in pasta water and sauce)
1 tablespoon oregano
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 piece of Parmesan rind
1 heaping tablespoon of sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 container of Gorgonzola cheese crumbles
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 of a cup of the pasta water (near the end of cooking)

Let’s do it!

  • Cook the sauce in a large skillet, where there is room to toss the pasta in at the end.

  • Boil pasta in salted water, when the sauce is nearly finished. Get the water started so it’s ready and boiling. Use a lot of water!

  • Finely chop garlic and sauté in oil. Make sure the garlic doesn’t get brown or burn. If it does, start over!

  • Add oregano to oil and sauté for about a minute. Add in the tomato paste and cook for a minute or two in the oil and oregano.

  • Add the two types of tomatoes. Fill up the 16 oz can with water and add that as well. If you want, and have white wine, you can also add a glug if that at this time. Add the sugar, salt, red pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese rind at this time. Bring the tomatoes to a heavy simmer and lower the heat so the sauce can cook for about 20-25 minutes.

  • After 20 minutes, throw in the pasta. Taste the sauce. If the tinny tomato flavor is gone, it’s time to add the butter and Gorgonzola cheese, and the balsamic vinegar take out the Parmesan rind). If the sauce is missing some flavor, heat, sweet, savory, add the appropriate ingredient in a larger amount. If you want it hotter, add more red pepper. Saltier, more salt. If it needs more savory flavor, you can add a tiny bit of fish sauce or soy sauce. Sounds weird but it adds that umami flavor that hours of cooking would have added. When the pasta is almost al dente, take half a cup of the pasta water and add it to the sauce.

  • When the pasta is finished, drain and throw in to the sauce. Toss to coat and cook for a minute or so. Serve hot.

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