Classic Pasta Checca with Fresh Tomatoes (Va Va Va Vegan!)

This sauce is à la minoot (that’s French for minute) and very lightly cooked. Fresh tomato sauce is a must-have recipe for every chef’s repertoire, especially during tomatomania season which is 10 months out of the year here in sunny California. Make it on the full moon, when basil is said to have extra romantic powers (oo la la) , and serve with some crusty bread and a green salad for a simply delicious meal.

It’s important to salt the cooking water so the plain pasta absorbs the salt while cooking. Nobody likes flat pasta.  Be sure to undercook it a bit too, about a minute less than recommended. These two simple things will make you a better chef in an instant.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes, including pasta cooking time Serves 4 to 6smallparties

Ingredients

1 pound pasta of your choice
2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, Italian or heirloom preferred, cut into hearty chunks

1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped or torn basil
Nu Cheeze –  to taste

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until just barely al dente. Set aside a cup of pasta water, then drain and set pasta aside while you make the sauce.

To velvetize the tomatoes, place them in a large bowl and sprinkle on cornstarch, add 1/4 cup pasta water, and stir to combine. Place a large skillet over high heat, add olive oil, and heat until almost smoking. Add garlic and give it a quick stir, avoiding any browning. Add velvetized tomatoes (with liquid) and stir to combine. Add salt, sugar, and balsamic vinegar and stir again. Bring sauce to a boil and thicken for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the sauce is too thick, thin with additional pasta water. Add cooked pasta, stir to combine, and toss with the basil.  Done!

Serve  Nu Cheeze on the side.

Buy the book at Powells.comAmazon.com, or BN.com

Vegan Nu Cheeze is the New Cheese

Nutritional yeast is a huge flavor booster for vegan cooking.nu yeast

Nicknamed “nooch” It’s already kind of cute in name, no?  It has a good deal of umami going on in there, and it really helps to add a little funkability without the fermented fish or dairy in a non-vegan Caesar. Just remember that a little goes a long way. Nutritional yeast is balanced with the seeds in this parmesan-like recipe, but many people use nooch straight up as a pasta topper. You can often find it in the bulk bins at healthy food markets and also prepackaged.

Prep time: 5 minutes Makes 2 cups
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup toasted salted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup toasted salted pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup toasted breadcrumbs

Blend all ingredients in a processor or blender until it turns to coarse meal. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to several months and use any time instead of parmesan.

Buy the book at Powells.comAmazon.com, or BN.com