This dish is a hybrid between my go-to tomato sauce base and vodka sauce. Rustic bites of tomatoes and onions are blanketed in rich cream. The fresh basil and vodka are omitted, leaving behind a simple, comforting dish that’s easy to pull together with staple pantry ingredients. Shared with loved ones or enjoyed solo, it makes for a great weekday indulgence.
This is one of those recipes that doesn’t have an actual recipe. It’s something I’ve made for years (with the exception of the cream, which is a slight variation) and tweak according to my provisions and tastes at the given moment. The base ingredients are simple: tomatoes (both fresh and canned), onion (or shallots), salt, and cinnamon. Garlic, basil, cream, crushed red pepper, eggplant, and so on can all be added if desired.
In a deep skillet or large wok over medium-low heat, sauté half an onion in 1-2 tablespoons light olive oil, salting to sweat. Once softened and translucent (about 5 minutes), add 2 cloves garlic, diced. Sauté for 1 minute until fragrant. Add 1 large ripe tomato, diced. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 28-ounce can tomatoes, crushed or diced (whatever you’re feeling; I typically opt for diced), and a large pinch (approximately 1/2 teaspoon) of ground cinnamon. (Cinnamon cuts the acidity of the tomatoes and takes every pasta sauce from good to bangin’. Do this.) Stir everything together and simmer over low heat for 10-15 minutes, allowing flavors to meld.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil and cook your favorite pasta (remembering to salt the water after it is boiling, not before). My favorite pasta is shells or cappellini, but I opted for the landlord’s favorite in this instance: linguine.
Once pasta is cooked and drained, add it to your extra grande sauce pan. Add a generous splash of cream (and by “splash” I mean 1/2+ cup — go for it), 1 tablespoon butter, and another pinch or two of sea salt. Toss with tongs to combine and serve immediately. Garnish with fresh basil and parmesan if desired, or enjoy simply.
This is a go-to recipe of mine that is the epitome of laid back summer evenings. Seasonal ingredients paired with no-fuss preparation make it a terrific weeknight dinner.
Ingredients: 3 ears of corn, kernels sliced off the cob 1 large clove garlic, minced 1 ball fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes 1/2 cup fresh basil, stems removed 1 1/2 cups pasta (I prefer small shells, but use whatever you like) 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon butter salt
Directions: In a large pot, set water to boil. Once boiling, salt water generously and add pasta. Cook until al dente (8 minutes if using small shells). Using a colander, drain pasta and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Set aside.
Meanwhile, place a large sauté pan over medium low heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and saute garlic until golden and fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Add corn kernels and butter, stirring to coat. Season with salt. Add diced mozzarella and stir to incorporate, cooking until corn is heated through and mozzarella begins to melt, about 1-2 minutes.
Add cooked pasta and 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, stirring to incorporate. Remove from heat. Garnish with fresh basil and serve immediately.
Garlicky pasta, lightly buttered corn, melted mozzarella, and fresh basil in wedded bliss. Savory and satisfying, you’ll be craving this all summer.
This was a quick and easy dinner, with a spin on the usual garlicky olive oil and green veggie combo I often make. I saved the olive oil from a package of sun-dried tomatoes and used it to kick things up a notch. Not that there’s anything wrong with traditional olive oil (I’m crazy for the deep green nutty stuff), but everyone likes a change of pace from time to time.
Simply sautéed with fresh sliced garlic and chopped asparagus and tossed with whole wheat shells, this dish was delish. Freshly grated parmesan and threads of spicy basil rounded out the clean simple flavors. I do love me some pasta.
The manlover isn’t always big on pasta but he does like him some pesto. I’ve made us fresh pesto before, but this time I cheated via leftover premade pesto we’d ordered at a restaurant as a dipping sauce for pizza crust. This pesto boasted a richness mine normally doesn’t, as it incorporated parmesan. (I withhold said parmesan in deference to the landlord, who dislikes it.)(I know, I know. How can someone dislike cheese? Blows my mind too.)
Tangent: It appears I’ve developed a taste for my lighter, zippier pesto as this one tasted too heavy to me. I’ve grown accustomed to topping mine with freshly grated parmesan, as opposed to having the cheese blended into the pesto itself. This heavier version was nice enough (everyone likes when someone else does the cooking) but I was surprised to find I like mine better. Win?
Next, I thought it might be a fun surprise if I panko-breaded the chicken. In a small bowl I combined about a 1/2 cup of panko, a few shakes of herbs de Provence, and sea salt. Dragged the chicken breasts through the mix and pressed to adhere.
The chicken was sautéed until crispy and golden and the pesto was tossed with whole wheat spaghetti, a splash of pasta water, and a bit of olive oil. All in all, an easy boy-friendly meal.
I attempted to make BGSK’s Butternut Squash Pasta Al Forno on Tuesday for the book club I recently joined. (A local group of adorable mid-twenties girls, more on them later.)
I had a gorgeous squash on hand from our farmers’ market that I specifically picked out with this recipe in mind. I ran out to our corner bodega for cheese, but they only had mozzarella. I was hoping for ricotta or gouda to help round out the flavors, but no such luck. Strike one. Strike two was I misread the recipe; my ratio of squash to pasta was about half what it should have been. Also, I used milk in place of cream and didn’t have any sage.
I tried to compensate for these shortcomings by adding a couple tablespoons of butter to boost the creaminess, beating an egg into the milk to act as a binding agent, and adding a healthy shake of cinnamon to the mix to enhance the autumn flavor.
It was a big hit at the book club, although I was slightly disappointed with it. It wasn’t as rich or cheesy as I’d wanted, but in fairness I was envisioning more of a mac ‘n cheese than a creamy pasta dish. Moreover, I’m sure a little ricotta or gouda (or both) would add the flavor and texture pop I was jonesin’ for. I’d also increase the squash ratio and make sure to have sage (perhaps fried sage?) — I’m sure both would make a delicious world of difference.
Overall, a decent dish as I made it. Next time, the flavor punch version BGSK intended.