Tomato Cream Pasta Sauce

Molly Notestine • July 21, 2014

This recipe contains anchovies.

With that, I’m sure I’ve lost half my audience. I’ll keep going for the other three who either like anchovies or have come to learn that like them or not, they can lend the most intriguing umami flavor to all sorts of recipes.

There’s one of us in each of those camps on our end.  I love anchovies, especially fresh, squeezed with lemon and preferably served beachside in a cafe in Italy, but I also dig those cheap salty suckers strewn on pizza. Matthew is not a fan of the hairy little fish on its own, but appreciates the flavor they contribute to salad dressings and sauces.

I’d heard that salt-packed anchovies are superior to the tiny tins of oil-packed anchovies, so I tried those this time. I can’t say I noticed a huge difference in taste, and they involved a bit more prep work (rinsing, filleting), but maybe my palate is still developing.

I had made some fresh pasta and I wanted a simple but special sauce. Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Pizza Pasta Calzone is divided by seasons and this fresh tomato sauce is in the “fall” section. It is strange for me to write about a fresh tomato recipe in March, but alas, I tested this recipe back in October when we were still in California.

Unlike here in Massachusetts, where the tomato glut ends around Labor Day, October is still fair game for tomatoes at the farmer’s market. Luckily, because of the flavor boost from the anchovies and cream, I think this recipe would be just as delicious with canned tomatoes as it was with the farmers market heirlooms I found.

Fresh Tomato Cream Pasta Sauce

adapted from: Chez Panisse Pizza Pasta Calzone


4 servings

  • 3-4 salt packed anchovies (oil packed work too, and require less work)
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 large ripe tomatoes (or one 28 oz can)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche (or heavy cream)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley or fresh basil, chopped

Rinse and filet and rinse the anchovies, if using whole salt-packed fish. With both types, slice crosswise into thin little slices. If using fresh tomatoes, boil a small pot of water, cut a small criss-cross through the skin at the bottom of the tomatoes and blanch briefly to loosen the skin.  Plunge into a bowl of cold water, and when cool enough to handle, peel and seed tomatoes.  I usually only get rid of about half the seeds. This way, I still have some of the texture and flavor that I like from the tomato seeds but the sauce isn’t too watery.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. Saute the garlic and anchovies gently until the garlic is fragrant and beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, raise the heat, and bring to boil. Add the cream, and simmer another few minutes until sauce has thickened some. Season with salt and fresh black pepper.

Boil noodles. Serve sauce on pasta garnished with more salt and pepper and fresh herbs.


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