I don't eat tortellini often; I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because it doesn't feel like there's ever enough, or maybe it's because I have only had it with sauces that are too heavy for the little cheese packages. That must be it, because after making this recipe, I can't come up with any other explanation. The tomato sauce is light enough to offset any heaviness the cheese in the tortellini may bring, and the mushrooms contribute an earthiness that is always amazing with tomatoes.
I specify using a can of Italian tomatoes (any brand touting San Marzano is my preference). San Marzano tomatoes have a richer, more concentrated tomato flavor. These are a little more expensive than the domestic brands, but for this you want to invest in Italian tomatoes, since the tomato sauce is the focus of the dish. Same thing for the tomato paste — if you can find Italian tomato paste, great. If not, it's not too big of a deal. What really matters is the quality of the tomatoes.
The 19-ounce package of tortellini I used makes exactly five portions (one cup each). If you don't think that will sustain you, particularly because the sauce is relatively light, feel free to get an extra package and throw it in there. The sauce makes more than what is necessary for one 19-ounce package, so you’ll be fine with adding some extra tortellini to the pasta water. When reheating, definitely add that tablespoon of water and make sure the lid is mostly secure (and just a sliver of an opening to allow steam to escape). This dish is prone to drying out, and we don’t want that.
Spicy Tomato-Mushroom Tortellini
Makes 5 (1-cup) portions
19-ounce package cheese tortellini, frozen
1 small onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly
1/2 to 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
5 1/2 ounces tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can Italian tomatoes
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in a deep skillet. Sauté onions and garlic until onions are translucent. Add sliced mushrooms and sauté until soft. Add red pepper flakes according to your preference. Your tongue should tingle, not scream.
Add tomato paste to pan, and stir until mixed well. Stir in canned tomatoes. If the tomatoes are whole peeled tomatoes, gently mash the tomatoes (they will splatter if you aren't careful). Reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes.
While sauce is simmering, cook tortellini according to package directions. Once drained, toss with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Fold about half of the sauce into tortellini. Refrigerate or freeze remaining sauce (it'll only get better — and you get even more meals out of it. Win!).
To portion: 1 cup of pasta into 5 separate containers. This recipe makes almost exactly 5 portions. Before freezing, sprinkle grated Parmesan as desired.
To reheat: Microwave on high with lid slightly ajar for 3 minutes.
(Image credits: Karla Conrad)