A few years ago, something wonderful happened in my kitchen: mascarpone cheese. While it may be called a cheese, I consider it more of a cream. It’s somewhere between crème fraîche (only definitely not as expensive) and cream cheese (definitely not as heavy or high in sodium). I was working to make a delicious cream-based tomato sauce for pasta and ended up selecting mascarpone as my creamer. Now it is a staple in our kitchen.
It’s so simple to use mascarpone in sauce there’s barely a recipe. Actually, this post really involves me just telling you to throw mascarpone in your sauce pan with anything else: shrimp and old bay; broccoli and mushrooms; clams and parsley; chicken and corn. The list is endless.
In fact, I encourage you to keep 8 oz in your kitchen at all times. This will enable you to whip up something saucy that is both delicious and impressive (to your date, your chic friend, even yourself) in a jiffy!
For starters, here’s a basic mascarpone tomato sauce recipe. After making it just once, I think you’ll be able to adapt it into countless clever variations.
TOMATO MASCARPONE PASTA SAUCE
Ingredients: 8 oz mascarpone, 15 oz canned tomato sauce (unseasoned)*, salt and pepper to taste.
Add together all ingredients and gently stir in small saucepan until cheese has melted and has thoroughly mixed with the tomato sauce. Keep on heat until first gentle boil (be sure to lid).
Serve over pasta or…anything.
canned tomato sauce and diced tomatoes and tomato paste in a can or tube are all far less expensive than prepared past sauces giving you ultimate control over taste, thickness, and variety
*A word about prepared pasta sauce (actually seven): stop spending money on prepared pasta sauce. I cannot believe how pricey pasta sauces have become. That and how many options there are, style, brand, and scope. Why so many? Because you can put anything with a tomato base and end up with a decent concoction. The big sauce companies know this, do it, and hike up their price.
But here’s a huge secret: you can make a better tasting sauce for a fraction of the retail price by purchasing unseasoned tomato sauce (conveniently located just down the aisle from prepared sauces) and adding your own seasonings. Making your own sauce will take far less time to prepare than that needed to boil water for noodles. And, of course, yours will be made from whole ingredients, and you will know when it was made, where it was made, and that it is devoid of the over abundance of calories and sugar.
Below, I provide the simplest recipe for awesome tasting sauce that results in very little waste and costs far less and is far healthier than comparably tasting fancy sauces one may be tempted to purchase. I mention the waste because back when I used to buy prepared sauces, I cannot tell you know many times I would use half of the jar, keep the other half “for later use” until the top was so crusted over or whatever decided to move in that I had to toss it out. There goes 4 of the 8 bucks I spent on that fancy sauce.
HOMEMADE ORGANIC SPAGHETTI SAUCE
Ingredients: 15 oz organic tomato sauce**, salt, pepper to taste, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 tablespoon soy sauce.
Mix together until just beginning a gentle boil and enjoy!
**Use chunky, use fire roasted, add that mascarpone! You will be thrilled with how easy, tasty, and economical your pasta sauce is and never again purchase seasoned or prepared spaghetti sauces. If you are looking for a thicker sauce, go ahead and add a bit of tomato paste. Try to find tube paste so in case you don’t need all 6 ounces. Or if you have leftover paste from a small can you can free it in small bits for later use.
Now, back to mascarpone.
Here is great pasta primavera that can be made in under 30 minutes that the whole family will enjoy. Well, we never have leftovers.
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PASTA PRIMAVERA IN TOMATO MASCARPONE SAUCE
Ingredients: one fresh small onion diced, heaping teaspoon garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, half teaspoon black pepper, two fresh broccoli crowns chopped, 8 oz sliced fresh mushrooms, 1/2 cup corn (fresh frozen is fine), 1 small can (15oz) of tomato sauce, 8 oz mascarpone cheese. Water to boil and 8-16 oz of your pasta of choice (amount of pasta depends on how saucy you like things). Fill a stock pot (8 qt) about 2/3 of the way with salted water and set on stove to bring to a boil. At boil, add pasta and cook for twelve minutes (unless package directs otherwise; for example, angel hair takes less time, so does freshly made pasta).
While waiting for water to boil, begin this process.
In a large saucepan, caramelize onion with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper on medium to high heat. Then add mushrooms and cook until juicy. Then add broccoli and corn until broccoli green is bright. Stir in tomato sauce then add mascarpone. Gently stir until cheese has melted and mixed throughout. Turn heat on low and simmer covered (or uncovered if you want to thicken your sauce) until noodles are ready.
Once noodles are cooked and drained, scoop into bowls, add primavera and sauce, and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
This recipe is tried and true. And you can mix it up in so many ways. Add a protein like chicken, turkey sausage, or shrimp. Or, remove the tomato sauce to end up with a white cream base. (That tastes lovely with shrimp, mushrooms, corn, and peas.)
Note: You may feel up to adding more salt and pepper. The tomato sauce and mascarpone both have no or low sodium, which gives the cook great flexibility.
As usual, buy organic for everything possible. Any market will have everything you need for this hearty, healthy, quick, and budget-conscious meal. (Trader Joe’s has the best price on 8 oz mascarpone, $2.99.) Enjoy!