A friend of mine posted something earlier tonight about a weapons-grade pasta disaster, so I thought I’d put together a quick easy survival guide. When I’ve had the kind of day that’s made my brain melt out my ear, rendering me incapable of deciding on what to do for dinner, this is a great fallback. There’s a few basic boxes to tick, and you’re on your way to great simple tomato pasta sauce base.
- Good dried pasta. Look for stuff made with durum wheat. Linguini’s my favourite, and I’ve got a grudge against penne.
- Canned, chopped tomatoes. Avoid the stuff with herbs already added, they’re usually pretty lame. One can should do one serve.
- Chicken stock. Good quality cubes are fine (the squishy, greasy ones, not the crumbly powdery ones – save them for your 2 minute noodles.) Make it hot and pretty concentrated – you don’t want to wait an hour for the sauce to simmer down.
- Oregano. The dried stuff is great. Works a little bit better than the fresh stuff in sauces.
- Finely chopped garlic. About one clove per serve.
Fry up the garlic in a little bit of oil, drop the tomatoes into the pan, stir the garlic through, then add your stock. Add the oregano at this point (a good generous shake should do it.), and a grind of black pepper if you’re that way inclined. Let it cook until it thickens up, stops looking like ingredients and starts looking like food. While that’s happening, boil a pot of salted water, and cook up your pasta. Invincible.
Of course you can give it some character by adding stuff to it. Here’s my surefire list:
- Chilli. I use the small tabasco peppers (some call them bird’s eye). Know your enemy.
- Italian deli meat, grilled. Pancetta is great in this, thinly sliced cacciatore is good too. Chorizo’s Spanish, not Italian. Save it for tapas.
- Mushrooms, cooked with a little garlic & butter.
I cook up the deli meat & mushrooms separately before the rest of the sauce then add them once the stock goes in. I add the chilli with the tomatoes. Sometimes I’ll finely chop the small chillies to give the whole sauce some heat, but other times I’ll get hold of the larger red & green chillies which aren’t as hot, and throw in a handful of slices. Gives the whole sauce some flavour, and adds some texture as well.
Finish it up in the bowl with some parmesan (buy a block & grate it yourself, or buy it grated from an Italian deli), and enjoy! Fresh mozzarella also works a treat.