Italian Tomato and Pasta Soup

Here is a fresh and delicious way to use tomatoes. Add a few tablespoons of tomato paste to amp up the color and flavor.

6 large, ripe tomatoes, about 1 1/2 lbs.
3 tbs. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cups cold water
1 tsp. kosher salt or 1/2 tsp. table salt
good grinding of black pepper
2 tsp. sugar
1 cup ditalini or other small pasta
sour cream and chopped fresh parsley, to serve

Put the tomatoes in a bowl and pour over boiling water. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the garlic cloves. When they start to sizzle, remove them and discard. Tip in the onions and cook over a medium-low heat for about 8 minutes, or until softened.

Drain the tomatoes. Peel off the skins, roughly chops and remove the seeds. Add to the pan and cook for 5 minutes to softened. Pour in the cold water and add the salt, pepper and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes.

Puree with a stick blender, then tip in the pasta. Simmer until the pasta is tender. Ladle into bowl and serve with sour cream and parsley on top.

Serves 4

Sweet Potato Macaroni and Cheese

This is a GAME-CHANGER!!

1 lb. sweet potatoes
10 oz. baby penne or other short, small pasta (approx. 2 cups)
4 tbs. butter, softened
3 tbs. all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 tsp. English mustard
1/4 tsp. paprika, plus 1/4 tsp. to sprinkle on top
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 1/4 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese, plus 1/4 cup to sprinkle on top
4 fresh sage leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 400°F. Put a large saucepan of water on to boil. (A lid makes this go faster.)

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into rough 1″ pieces. When the water is boiling, add salt to taste and cook the sweet potatoes for about 10 minutes, or until they are soft. Scoop them out with a spider or slotted spoon, then mash them roughly. Do not throw out the water.

In another saucepan, gently melt the butter, then whisk in the flour to make a roux. Take the pan off the heat and slowly add the milk until everything is combined and smooth. Change to a wooden spoon and continue to stir until the flour taste has cooked away and the sauce is thickened, 3-4 minutes. Stir in the mustard, 1/4 tsp. of paprika and a bit of seasoning.

Cook the pasta in the reserved water according to package directions until just al dente. Reserve some of the cooking water, then drain and stir into the sweet potatoes. Stir in the feta cheese, then stir in the sauce and the 1 1/4 cups Cheddar cheese. Add some of the reserved cooking water if it seems too thick. Check seasoning again.

Spoon into 4 small overproof dishes (1 1/2-1 3/4″) or 1 baking dish (12×8″). Sprinkle with the remaining Cheddar cheese and paprika, then shred the sage leaves and scatter over.

Place on a baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is bubbly and everything is piping hot.