On the first night my husband and I spent in Paris this summer, we unpacked our bags and headed out for supper. Tired from traveling, we ended up in a small Left Bank place that specializes in pizza and pasta. I was tempted by one of the day's specials listed on a blackboard --penne with fresh tomato sauce, arugula and parmesan.
When I arrived back home several weeks later, I prepared a version that was close to the original. This simple main course does not take long to prepare, so it's ideal to use for warm weather entertaining when you want to minimize your time in the kitchen. You can make the sauce a day ahead, then at serving time, cook the penne and assemble the dish.
Betty Rosbottom writes for Tribune Media Services.
PENNE WITH FRESH TOMATO SAUCE, ARUGULA AND PARMESAN SERVES 4
2 pounds ripe, juicy tomatoes (see note)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1-1 / 2 teaspoons minced garlic
3 teaspoons kosher salt (divided use), plus more to taste
1 / 4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound penne
3 / 4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (divided use)
2 tablespoons butter
4 cups (about 4 ounces) packed arugula, stemmed and very coarsely chopped
Stem tomatoes, but do not peel them (the skin will add a chunky quality to the sauce). Halve the tomatoes horizontally, then squeeze the tomato halves to remove as many seeds as possible. Coarsely chop halves into 3 / 4-inch chunks and place in a large mixing bowl.
Heat olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute, stirring often, until translucent and slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, and saute 1 minute longer. Stir in the tomatoes and any juices that have collected in the bowl, 3 / 4 teaspoon salt and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have broken down, the mixture is thick and most of the liquid has evaporated, 12 to 15 minutes. Taste and add additional salt if needed. (The sauce can be prepared one day ahead; cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat, stirring often.) When it's ready to serve, bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with the rest of the salt and add penne. Cook pasta according to package directions, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain well. Return the penne to the pot in which it was cooked, and stir in 1 / 2 cup of the cheese and the butter. When that's melted, add the tomato sauce and arugula and toss until the arugula wilts. Taste and season with more salt if needed.
To serve, divide pasta among 4 shallow bowls. Sprinkle each serving with some of the remaining 1 / 4 cup Parmesan cheese.
Note: Juicy and sweet ripe tomatoes work best in this sauce. I used an heirloom tomato variety called Ugli tomatoes with great results.
Per serving: 676 calories, 25 grams protein, 20 grams fat, 8 grams saturated fat, 99 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams fiber, 28 milligrams cholesterol, 650 milligrams sodium. Recipe analysis provided by registered dietitian Jodie Shield.