Radiatori with Tomato-Cream Sauce and Fresh Basil

Radiatori with Tomato-Cream Sauce and Fresh Basil

After my recent post about the huge dietary changes I’ve made, I’m sure you’re rather surprised to see this big plate of pasta.  Yes, I ate some of it.  It was fantastic.

I guess this would be a perfect time to tell you a bit more about my approach to low carb eating.  Yes, I have almost completely cut grains out of my diet for now (and many other things as well).  I plan on eating this way for the rest of my life because I feel better than I ever have.  I haven’t eaten pasta for about three months and for the most part, I really haven’t missed it much.  And that’s because I’ve never had any intention of completely restricting myself from a food that I love so much.  I will sometimes eat pasta, but when I do, it will be with intention.  It will be made with wonderful, fresh ingredients and it will be shared with the ones I love.  Maybe I will only eat a few bites, which is what I did last night, maybe I will eat a bit more.  I just don’t know yet.  But one thing I do know is that it will never be a last-minute meal thrown together from a box, consumed in front of the television.  Never.

Just like pasta, I know that sometimes I will eat bread.  But it will be bread that’s worth eating.  Not some strange, spongy, grocery store loaf filled with preservatives.  Not even the oven-warmed (or sometimes microwaved), flavorless white stuff that comes to the restaurant table needing copious amounts of butter to give it flavor.  When I eat bread, it will be from a favorite bakery in San Francisco when the smell of fresh-baked loaves is too overwhelming to resist.  It might be wrapped around the best pulled-pork I’ve ever tasted from an amazing barbecue joint.  Or perhaps it will come from a friend’s oven – the first loaf of sourdough from a starter that I shared.  And maybe it will be from my own oven, made with care for those I love.  It will be an occasional treat and it will be wonderful.

As you might have guessed, the same applies to sweets.  I will someday add small amounts of honey, maple syrup, and other sugars (the less refined, the better) to my diet.  I have no intention of going completely without sweets for the rest of my life.  But I’m also aware of the damage that sugar has done to my body and now that I have abstained from it for so long, I can actually feel what it does to me when I do eat some.  So yes, occasionally I’ll eat a bite (or more) of some fantastic-looking dessert.  I’ll let myself enjoy it and hopefully I’ll stop before it makes me feel horrible.  But I’ve already lost the serious cravings for really sweet things and I love how it’s affected my taste buds.  Fruit and vegetables taste amazing now.  I look forward to a handful of fresh berries from the farmer’s market with the same anticipation I used to feel standing in line for Pistacchio Gelato at my favorite Gelateria in Catania.

So now that you know a bit more about how I’m eating, let’s talk about this pasta!  When the lovely Domenica Marchetti sent me a message on twitter a while back asking if I’d make and share a recipe from her upcoming pasta cookbook, I immediately said yes.  Although we haven’t actually met in person, Domenica is one of my favorite people to follow on twitter.  She’s so warm and welcoming, I feel like I’ve already sat in her kitchen and shared a meal.  You’ll feel the same after reading this book.  Everything about it is warm and welcoming – the recipes, the writing, the photography.  It’s beautiful.

The Glorious Pasta of Italy by Domenica Marchetti

When I first got the book, I took it over to my Aunt Kathy’s house.  I knew that if I made a big pasta dinner, my family would have to be involved.  I left the book with my cousin and aunt so they could choose a recipe, and when I got it back, my book looked like this.

My copy of The Glorious Pasta of Italy

Just like me, they couldn’t choose just one recipe.  Unfortunately, I lost track of time, and wasn’t able to pull together a big homemade pasta dinner for my family.  But it will definitely happen at some point in the future, and this book will definitely play a part.

Since I didn’t have time to make some pasta from scratch (there are several wonderful recipe for homemade pasta in the book), I chose to make Domenica’s simple Tomato-Cream Sauce to pair with some store-bought Radiatori.  This gave me an excuse to go to one of my favorite local specialty stores – Sam’s Italian Deli and Market – to buy canned San Marzano tomatoes for the sauce and to find the special pasta shape I was after.  Not only did Sam’s carry the dried Radiatori pasta, they also had a fresh version in their freezer.  I bought a bag of the fresh pasta, which contained two servings.  Perfect, since I wasn’t cooking for a crowd after all.

Now for the sauce.

It starts with a combination of extra-virgin olive oil and butter – my two favorite ingredients.

Olive Oil and Butter in a Dutch Oven

When the oil and butter are heated, add a mixture of chopped onion, carrots, and celery.

Onion, carrots, and celery cooking in butter and olive oil

While the vegetables are sauteeing, you’ll have time to process the canned tomatoes in a food mill.  If you don’t have a food mill, you really should get one.  It’s an inexpensive and wonderful tool!

San Marzano Tomatoes in a Food Mill

The tomatoes will pass through the mill, leaving behind the seeds, cores, and any skin that was left on the tomatoes.

Processing Tomatoes in a Food Mill

What you’ll end up with is a beautiful tomato puree.

Tomato Puree

After about 15 minutes, the vegetables should be nice and soft.  Even though I was busy with the tomatoes, I kept an eye on the vegetables, stirring them occasionally, and adjusting the heat to keep them from browning much.

Softened Vegetables

Next, add the tomato puree, salt, and pepper to the vegetables and bring it all up to a slow simmer.  At this point, you’ll partially cover the pot with a lid then let the sauce simmer for about 45 minutes.  Meanwhile, your house will smell amazing!

Tomato Puree is Added to the Vegetables

After 45 minutes, the sauce will have thickened and the vegetables will be very tender.  Take the pot off the heat and let it cool for a few minutes.  Next, you can puree it with an immersion blender or in batches with a regular blender.

Tomato Sauce after Simmering

The final step is to stir in some cream.  If you’d like to freeze part of the sauce, remove that portion to a freezer container before adding the cream.

Swirling in some cream

Once the cream is stirred in, taste the sauce, try not to swoon,  then add more salt and pepper if you’d like.

Tomato-Cream Sauce

While the ingredients are very simple, this sauce is amazing!  I couldn’t stop eating it by the spoonful.  And since I knew I wouldn’t be eating much pasta, I decided to try the sauce a different way.  My friend and I had just made Grilled Chicken Under a Brick and I couldn’t resist trying a piece of the rosemary-scented chicken smothered with the tomato-cream sauce.  It was so delicious!

Grilled Chicken Under a Brick with Tomato-Cream Sauce

The thing to keep in mind is that Italian pasta sauces can be used in so many ways.  If you can’t eat pasta, there’s no reason you shouldn’t make a big pot of delicious tomato sauce.  For dinner, simmer some big meatballs and vegetables in the sauce.  Pour it over sliced meatloaf, chicken, or Italian Sausage.  Toss it with zucchini ribbons or spaghetti squash.  The options are endless.  You can do the same thing with any sauce.  Be creative!

And if you are gluten-free but eating other grains, you can substitute your favorite gluten-free pasta in any of the recipes in the book.  There are so many recipes in here that can work for anyone.

Yesterday on twitter, my friend Tari and I were talking about tossing shaved asparagus with a rich cream sauce rather than eating asparagus on the side of Fettuccine Alfredo.  It sounded so good, I almost dropped what I was doing to go buy some asparagus.  Making dietary changes is hard, but rather than worrying about having to say no to your favorite foods, try saying yes to new variations of your favorites.

I am so happy that Domenica asked me to join her Pasta Party to celebrate today’s launch of her new book.  Making that sauce yesterday – the first pasta sauce I’ve made since going low carb – really made me think about how to combine my love of Italian cooking with my new way of eating.  I may not be eating pasta very often, but The Glorious Pasta of Italy will still inspire many terrific meals in my kitchen.

Domenica is hosting a pasta party on her blog today and several other fantastic bloggers have joined in and tried a recipe from the book.  Visit Domenica Cooks to see what the others have made.

You also might like to follow Domenica on Twitter or become a fan of Domenica Cooks on Facebook

Enjoy the recipes!

Radiatori with Tomato-Cream Sauce and Fresh Basil
from The Glorious Pasta of Italy by Domenica Marchetti
Serves 4.

1 lb (455 grams) dried radiatori
2 cups (480 ml) Tomato-Cream Sauce, heated to a simmer (recipe below)
5 to 10 fresh basil leaves, cut into narrow strips
1/2 cup (55 grams) freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, plus more for serving

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously. Add the pasta, stir to separate, and cook according to the directions on the package, until al dente.  Drain the pasta in a colander set in the sink, reserving about 1 cup (240 ml) of the cooking water.

Return the pasta to the pot and spoon in about two-thirds of the sauce.  Gently toss until the pasta is evenly coated with the sauce.  Sprinkle in the basil and 1/2 cup (55 grams) Parmigiano and toss to mix well.  Add a splash or two of the reserved cooking water if necessary to loosen the sauce.  Transfer the dressed pasta to warmed shallow individual bowls and spoon the remaining sauce on top.  Sprinkle with more cheese, if you like.  Serve immediately.

Tomato-Cream Sauce
from The Glorious Pasta of Italy by Domenica Marchetti
makes about 6 cups (1.4 liters)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
two 28-0z (800 gram) cans whole or diced tomatoes, with their juice
kosher or fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup (180 ml) heavy/double cream

Warm the olive oil and butter in a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot placed over medium heat.  When the butter is melted and begins to sizzle, add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute, stirring often, for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened.  If necessary, reduce the heat to medium-low to prevent the vegetables from browning.

While the vegetables are cooking, pass the tomatoes through a food mill fitted with the disk with the smallest holes.  Discard the solids.

Add the milled tomatoes to the vegetables and stir in 1 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper.  Cover partially and cook at a gentle simmer for 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are completely tender.  Remove from the heat and let the sauce cool for 10 minutes.

Puree the sauce using an immersion blender or a stand blender.  (If using a stand blender, you will need to puree the sauce in two batches and then return the pureed sauce to the pan).  Add the cream, place over medium heat, and bring the sauce just to a simmer.  Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if you like.

Simplify: The sauce may be stored in a tightly lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.  If freezing, omit the cream and add it when you reheat the sauce.

  1. Phil

    Great post!

    11:52 am  Jun 1st, 2011
  2. Ranjani

    Hi Nicole – I’m so glad to see that instead of following any restrictive rules, you’re finding a personalized diet that really works for you and makes you feel healthy. Good for you!

    12:47 pm  Jun 1st, 2011
  3. Paula - bell'alimento

    <3 this! I think I'm going to make a big pot of that sauce subito!

    1:48 pm  Jun 1st, 2011
  4. Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic

    Love this post. While I’m a big pasta eater myself, I’m also a firm believer in eating food that makes you feel good. Oh and I’ve eaten pasta sauce with steamed broccoli and a fried or soft boiled egg – sounds weird but I like it!

    3:15 pm  Jun 1st, 2011
  5. rachel

    this looks lovely and i’m enjoying reading about your dietary choices! very interesting!

    9:39 pm  Jun 1st, 2011
  6. emiglia

    I love radiatori! Your “diet” seems like a perfect life plan for healthy eating… looking forward to seeing lots of healthy recipes on here.

    6:48 am  Jun 2nd, 2011
  7. EA

    That sauce looks amazing, and I love the simplicity of it. I wish someone made gluten-free radiatore pasta, but I’m settle for my favorite quinoa noodles instead :-).

    7:09 am  Jun 2nd, 2011
  8. Courteney @ Not a "diet" Blog

    I’m glad to see that you haven’t chosen one extreme over another. I think the point is to stick to moderation not complete restriction. And its neat to see that you want to eat it with purpose, in that, when it is a treat its not just something you thought about last minute and ate without any forethought to how it was made but instead took the time to create this beautiful recipe.

    7:15 am  Jun 2nd, 2011
  9. Renee

    I like the idea of moderation in all things. I don’t eat a lot of pasta anymore either due to dietary reasons and have been making sauce and meatballs instead.

    9:16 am  Jun 2nd, 2011
  10. Beth

    Eating with intention is such a great idea. We should all do it!

    10:58 am  Jun 2nd, 2011
  11. Baking Serendipity

    I’ve never made my own tomato sauce…I’m a little embarrassed to admit this! But, the recipe here looks like the perfect one to begin with 🙂

    12:24 pm  Jun 2nd, 2011
  12. Mich

    I love the way you pureed your tomatoes! Looks much more low maintenance than breaking out the food processor. And I agree- lots of friends have commented on how much better they feel upon tweaking their carb intake. Can’t wait to try this!

    12:34 pm  Jun 2nd, 2011
  13. Andrea

    Wow. This recipe is amazing, and your photography is beautiful. Mmm, I love how the sauce fills up the spaces in the pasta…ooh, and I love the texture of pasta. Mmm.

    I also love your ‘philosophy’ on food! I really do feel the same way. Unhealthy foods are never needed, but when they call to you, they should be enjoyable times, not guilty ones!

    7:06 pm  Jun 2nd, 2011
  14. Barbara

    I’m doing the Quick Weight Loss diet. Have been for 3 months. Just a tiny mount of carb per day…I choose a 4″ corn tortilla, which I wrap my egg in each morning.
    Pasta is out until I reach my goal.
    Now that doesn’t mean I can’t drool over this recipe! It looks wonderful, as does the book. Once this is over, I can re-introduce good carbs. I can’t wait!
    Super photos!

    3:56 pm  Jun 3rd, 2011
  15. Snippets of Thyme

    You must have been so thrilled to offer up a pasta recipe! Congratulations. I also enjoyed seeing that mill. I’ve never used one but the idea of making fresh sauces sounds enticing! Good luck with your lifestyle dietary changes. You are doing great. I did the same thing and have kept the 30 pounds that I lost off for 5 years now. I have to take out the processed sugars when they creep up but now I have a definite plan of action.

    12:46 pm  Jun 4th, 2011
  16. thelittleloaf

    I’m very impressed with your dietary intentions! As a self proclaimed little loaf I live for incredible homemade bread (as well as other more sugary home baked treats) but I completely agree with the idea of only eating what really appeals. All my bread is wholemeal and hand made, and I use unrefined sugar, wholemeal and other grain flours in my baking. Glad to see you allow yourself the odd starchy treat once in a while though – this pasta looks delicious!

    2:27 am  Jun 5th, 2011
  17. Neil Butterfield

    I am very wary of any suggestions that restrict what I can an cannot eat.

    6:47 am  Jun 5th, 2011
  18. Alexandra

    Just started reading your blog. I’m going through similar changes in my health and am cutting back on the same foods. It’s been really difficult and I’ll admit, I am not where i want to be right now. Thanks for being so open on your blog! This recipe looks delicious by the way.

    5:43 pm  Jun 6th, 2011
  19. Sarah

    We thought the idea of this sauce was fantastic- but it tasted more like tomato soup on pasta… no depth of flavor whatsoever, and yes I used good tomatoes and ingredients. Can’t say it will be made again- I much prefer the pasta sauce that has only tomatoes, butter and onion.

    9:23 pm  Jun 6th, 2011
  20. Cooking contests

    This made my mouth WATER. I usually do a jarred sauce from the grocery, but wow – that’ll change. I’m a regular pasta eater, and I’m almost embarrassed at how much better this looks than what I’ve made! Fresh ingredients are the way to go, and it’s really not that much more work, is it? Also, I’ve never had radiatori, but I like the looks of it. Beautiful recipe, thanks for sharing!

    Take care,

    10:48 am  Jun 8th, 2011
  21. Emily

    Oh my goodness! This sauce looks delicious and the pasta divine. I will have to make this!!

    Recipes Fashion Marriage

    4:09 pm  Jun 8th, 2011
  22. Yoshi Blade

    Thanks for this radiatori with tomato-cream sauce and basil. The pictures alone are quite mouth-watering.

    2:07 pm  Jun 13th, 2011
  23. Justine

    What a delicious looking pasta dish!

    12:22 pm  Jun 18th, 2011
  24. SallyBR

    Haven’t commented before on your dietary changes, but wanted to say that you have amazing will power, and there’s no doubt you will feel good for decades and decades, as you are listening to your body and doing what your body asks you to

    Very sorry to hear about your divorce, that bit of news escaped me – having been through one, I know it is difficult, but there is always a very bright sun behind the clouds

    Wonderful post!

    9:00 am  Jun 20th, 2011
  25. Erik Eats

    I need to make this. I’m a pasta junkie and this looks amazing. Cream and tomatoes = awesome!

    5:36 pm  Jun 20th, 2011
  26. Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking

    Now this is my kind of comfort food! It looks so delicious, hearty and everything that I start craving after all the light meals that come with summer! Thanks for sharing this and reminding me of my favorite cold-weather flavors. 🙂

    8:29 am  Jun 21st, 2011
  27. May - So Very Domestic

    I have been cooking with tomatoes more than ever and this looks like a great addition! Thanks for posting. I also have been using McCormick spices for years and they’re great.

    10:33 am  Jun 22nd, 2011
  28. jess white

    mmmm. this looks so fresh and delightful. great shot!

    1:55 am  Jun 24th, 2011
  29. Maureen

    Yummy, yummy, yummy. Those two photos from the book are so good and I could eat your share of the pasta anytime. It’s winter down under and this would be perfect for this weekend.

    5:36 am  Jun 24th, 2011
  30. joan

    Wow this looks absolutely good and probably taste delicious. I canít wait to try this at home.

    12:55 pm  Jun 28th, 2011
  31. Steph @ Beyond Organic For Life

    I enjoyed this post! I too, can’t eat pasta, but my reason is the gluten. I so wish ‘gluten free’ pasta actually tasted like real pasta. If I do eat it, like you, it’s in small amounts and there must be a great reason for the meal…lots of love for family and friends. Are you eating raw cheeses? visit my website at http://www.beyondorganicforlife.wordpress.com, and follow the links to the product site. Beyond Organic’s cheeses are never heated to a temperature higher than that of the cow’s body. It’s truly a ‘raw’ cheese.

    12:27 pm  Jun 30th, 2011
  32. Sal's Girl

    My husband and I eat low-carb also but we eat pasta fairly often because we eat Dreamfields. It’s low-carb–5 digestible carbs–and the taste and texture is the same as regular pasta. If it’s hard for you to find you can buy it on the internet. We buy a case at a time! I try to tell all the low-carb eaters about this product just because it’s so great. Hope you see this!

    10:08 pm  Jul 15th, 2011
  33. Jonha | FriendsEat

    Ask me anything but never ask me not to try it when I’m nearby 😉

    8:00 am  Aug 8th, 2011
  34. angela@spinachtiger

    I love a creamy tomato sauce and the book looks worth a purchase. I love pasta, but I eat it very sparingly because it tends to add extra weight. And, as you, I must eat really good pasta for it to be worth my while.

    1:38 pm  Aug 9th, 2011
  35. Rujuta

    Hi! Your blog has been a culinary inspiration for me. The first time I got a cake right and confidence in my baking skills was when my friend directed me to the caramel cake on your blog. There’s been no looking back since. I have replicated some recipes from your blog, always with unfailing results.

    But after reading a couple of posts about you dietary changes, I am inspired on a more personal level with your will power and whole hearted acceptance to change. Great going!!

    2:42 am  Sep 3rd, 2011
  36. Robin

    Pasta gets a bad reputation because people don’t often control portions of it well, nor the sauces and toppings they add. I make one cup of pasta per serving, usually whole-grain or whole-wheat, and try to use light butter and low-fat milk and cheese in my sauces. I also make enough sauce to mostly cover each serving, but not drown the noodles.

    2:03 pm  Aug 16th, 2012
  37. Tom

    Wow! Amazing recipe, tomate sauce is delicious. Thanks for share.

    6:10 pm  May 18th, 2015
  38. John Carroccetto

    Hello, I wanted to print out a copy of the recipe for the Radiatori with cream sauce, but I was unable to do so. I wish you would make recipes easier to print out because it is frustrating when I find one that I like and then something in your system makes it unprintable.

    12:58 pm  Dec 29th, 2015
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