Pasta is always a great weekday diner idea. It’s quick. You can add tons of vegetables, some protein, and there you have it, a well-balanced, healthy meal. I’ve tired tons of homemade sauces, and a lot of them were delicious, but this Creamy Tomato Pasta Sauce tastes like it came from one of my favorite Italian-American restaurants. It’s that good.
When I first came across this recipe for Creamy Tomato Pasta Sauce in Cook Illustrated, I did what I always do. I started making substitutions to try to streamline the recipe. But, if you’re familiar with Cooks Illustrated, you know that they test their recipes hundreds (yes, hundreds) of times before publishing it in their magazine. So, I forced myself to stick to the recipe. I made only a few minor change due to dietary restrictions because I wanted to see just to see how good this recipe really is.
Yeah, and the recipe is pretty great. My picky family even agreed. Looking at the photos of this Creamy Tomato Pasta Sauce, you’re probably thinking, “It looks just like any other pasta sauce to me.” But honestly, there are so many layers of flavors in this simple pasta sauce, that it tastes darn delicious.
The salty, smoky base from the turkey bacon, the tangy, sharp sun dried tomatoes, and the buttery cream make this Creamy Tomato Pasta Sauce so well balanced and flavorful. It’s sort of amazing how such a simple looking dish can deliver such well-rounded flavors.
Because my family and I love this sauce so much, I make a double batch without the cream. I freeze half of the sauce (without cream), and the half that we serve for dinner, I add cream right before combining it with the pasta. When I freeze the sauce, I freeze it in ice cube trays. Once completely frozen, I place the cubes of sauce in a zip-top bag. Then whenever I need some sauce, I can pull out a cube or two of sauce. It’s so convenient, and it tastes way better than jarred pasta sauces.
- 3 ounces unsalted butter
- 1 ounce turkey strips, chopped fine
- 3/4 cups onion, diced fine (about one small onion)
- 1 bay leaf
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbs tomato paste
- 3 tbs sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained, rinsed, dried and chopped
- 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tbs chicken or vegetable stock, low sodium
- 1 lb pasta
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped, fresh basil
- Parmesan cheese for serving
- Over medium heat, melt butter in a sauce pan.
- Add the turkey strips, onion, bay leaf, pepper flakes, and 1/4 tsp salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and begin to turn a light golden brown (about 10 minutes).
- Turn the heat to medium high and add the garlic. Cook until the garlic becomes fragrant (about 30 seconds).
- Add the sun dried tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir constantly and cook until the mixture turns a slightly darker shade of brown, about 2 minutes.
- Add 1/4 cup stock. Stir constantly and cook until the liquid has completely evaporated (about 1 to 2 minutes).
- Add the crushed tomatoes and bring the sauce to a simmer. Partially cover the sauce and cook, stirring occasionally until the sauce is thickened, about 30 to 40 minutes.
- Meanwhile, boil your pasta. Make sure to add 1 tbs of water to the 4 quarts of water for the 1 pound of pasta. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.
- Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water and drain the pasta. Return the pasta to the pot in which it cooked.
- Remove bay leaf from the sauce. Using an immersion blender, blend the sauce until it’s a bit smoother, but chunks of onion and sun dried tomato are still in tact.
- Add the rest of the stock and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir in the basil.
- Stir in the cream.
- Add the sauce to the pasta. Toss. Use the reserved pasta water to adjust the consistency of the sauce.
- Serve with Parmesan cheese.
This recipe is adapted from Cooks Illustrated.
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