Monday, August 4, 2008

Pasta w/a Mexican twist

If you can believe it, the following recipe was inspired by airline food!
We were headed home on Mexicana Airlines from Mexico City and I was served the best meal I've ever had on a flight! It's been two years since I had this meal but every once in a while I still make the pasta. It's yummy and very quick to make.

My airline meal was baked chicken breast on a bed of pasta with red sauce. The twist was in the pasta. It included Mexican cheese called "cotija", cilantro and red sauce. (It might have had more ingredients but this all I can remember today and it still reminds my taste buds of the airline pasta. Yum!)

You can find cotija cheese (queso cotija) at most grocery stores. It is a dry, salty, crumbly cheese and, in my opinion, is the Mexican equivalent to parmesan cheese in Italian cuisine.

Pasta a la Mexicana Airlines
12 oz. pasta (I like gemelli, mini-penne, or bow-tie)
red sauce (see recipe below)
1/4 cup crumbled queso cotija
2 tablespoons cilantro

This is such a simple recipe that all of the measurements for each ingredient can be adjusted based on personal taste and/or servings desired.
Cook pasta. (Use anywhere from 10 oz. to 16 oz.)
While pasta cooks, make tomato sauce, crumble the cotija cheese and chop cilantro.
Once pasta is cooked and drained, return to its pot, pour tomato sauce over pasta and add crumbled cheese and cilantro. Stir and serve!

Tomato Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans of diced tomatoes (14.5 oz. each)

Blend one can of diced tomatoes in blender until smooth. (You can blend both cans if you don't like tomato chunks in your pasta.)
Heat olive oil in sauce pot and add minced garlic cloves. Cook until fragrant.
Add the blended tomatoes and the can of diced tomatoes.
Stir and heat until bubbling.
Reduce heat and let simmer uncovered 10-20 minutes, depending on your preference for a thin or thick sauce. (The longer you cook it the thicker it will become.)
Salt and pepper to taste.

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