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MICROWAVE

When Everything's Cookin'

January 31, 1991|MARCIA CONE and THELMA SNYDER

This column is about microwave cooking, but more importantly, it's about making the microwave work with the toaster oven, the food processor and the conventional oven and grill. When everything is humming, one of the most hectic times of the day--meal time--becomes a little saner.

And when you're exhausted at the end of the day, there is nothing more satisfying than a bowl of pasta smothered in red sauce.

We almost always choose fresh ingredients for our recipes, but at this time of year, tomatoes from a can taste as good as our memory of those fresh-picked in August. A tablespoon of olive oil is added mostly for flavor because you really need only a scant teaspoon to saute in the microwave. Nothing will stick to the bottom of the dish.

The pasta is best cooked conventionally on top of the stove in plenty of boiling water--something that would take a long time in the microwave.

For variations, the basic sauce may be poured over stuffed peppers or spooned on top of pizza dough or added to any recipe that calls for tomato sauce. It's good old home-cooking in less than 10 minutes.

BASIC TOMATO SAUCE

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, crushed

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Combine olive oil and garlic in 2 1/2-quart microwave casserole and microwave on HIGH (100% power) 35 to 45 seconds. Stir in tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Cover with lid or plastic wrap, turned back slightly on 1 side. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 5 minutes, stirring after 3 minutes.

Stir in Parmesan cheese. Microwave on HIGH, uncovered, 2 to 4 minutes or until sauce is heated through. Makes about 2 cups.

TOMATO SAUCE WITH WINTER VEGETABLES

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup undrained canned tomatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 bunch broccoli florets, cut in bite-size pieces (about 2 cups)

2 small carrots, cut in julienne strips

2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional

Combine olive oil and garlic in 3-quart microwave casserole. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 35 to 45 seconds or until garlic is tender but not brown. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and basil. Microwave on HIGH 5 minutes, stirring once.

Stir in cheese followed by broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Cover with lid or plastic wrap, turned back slightly on 1 side. Microwave on HIGH 6 to 8 minutes or until broccoli is tender-crisp, stirring once halfway through cooking. Serve over hot cooked spaghetti or fettuccine. Makes enough sauce for 4 to 6 servings.

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