One of my favorite things about my husband is that he likes to share. Two summers ago Marc (my husband) and I were in Michigan for a month in the summer. We were living in Brooklyn, NY then and visiting our families before his school year started. During that time he took a few days to drive to Chicago to see his best friend and while he was there he explored Navy Pier.
So this year, when we were living in Chicago, for his birthday he insisted that we go back there because he wanted to share it with me. You see, I have quite the obsession with ferris wheels and he knew this would be a fun date for us.
He planned the whole day, down to the restaurant where he wanted to eat. You see, when he was visiting his friend the previous summer he had went to Bubba Gump and was shocked at how good it was. Believe it or not we have very discriminating taste buds, so this was a shock to me as well. Because I'm allergic to shellfish he couldn't take me there so we went to Bubba Gump's sister restaurant, Capi's Italian Kitchen. http://www.eatatcapis.com/ I wasn't expecting much. I had obsessively looked at the menu and read reviews and was ready for something similar to Olive Garden, which was fine- it was his birthday and he was in charge.
So, his birthday came around and we had a proper Navy Pier experience. I have to say though, that ferris wheel is taller than it looks. I was so scared when we were near the top, but the view was worth it. By the time we got to Capis we were starving. Marc ordered this dish called "Sicilian Cheese Filled Pasta." If you look at the menu you'll see that there aren't many clues to what is actually in this dish and to our surprise it was incredible- better than any of the Italian restaurants in Brooklyn that we had obsessively visited, while trying to find the best. We spent the meal trying to taste what exactly was in it so we could recreate it at home. We had deduced that it was a tomato based cream sauce with a heavy helping of thyme, but it was so spicy too, enough to make two heat lovers contemplate their next bite.
Here is my version.
Tomato Cream Sauce with Thyme
2 tsp butter
1/2 cup minced onion
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 can of crushed San Marzano or plum tomatoes
1/4 cup of heavy cream
1/4 cup of vegetable broth
3 tbsp dried thyme
1.5 tbsp dried basil
1.5 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes (you can increase or decrease this)
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
salt & pepper to taste
1 package of your favorite pasta (I used Gia Russa Whole Wheat Ziti)
In a large dutch oven or saute pan melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often until softened, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add garlic and crushed red pepper, cook while stirring 30 seconds.
Add, vegetable broth, cream and tomatoes, stir to incorporate, then add thyme, basil, and 1 tbsp of fresh Parmesan. Stir and increase heat to a simmer. Simmer uncovered until sauce has thickened, about 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in salt & pepper to taste.
While sauce is simmering start your noodles. Once the water is boiling add salt and noodles. Cook for exactly 12 minutes. Your noodles will come out perfect every time. Once the noodles are cooked al dente add them to your sauce (add a splash of that water that you cooked the noodles in too, it makes it even better) toss with remaining Parmesan and serve with crusty bread.