pasta with tomato sauce

Welcome to my new blog! I’m not very good at introductions, so let me just say (for now) that my goal here is to talk about food, cooking, and all interesting things associated with it. I am a college student, I live in an apartment with a small kitchen, and I cook on a pretty small budget as well. Hopefully my recipes, pictures, and ideas will inspire you as well.

Without further ado, let’s talk about pasta. Pasta is one of my favorite things to cook: it’s cheap, nutritious, fast, and can be a vehicle for many different foods (not just canned tomato sauce).  There are really only a few important things to remember when cooking pasta:

  • Use plenty of water.
  • Salt the water liberally (I usually throw in a heaping tablespoon of kosher salt).
  • Don’t overcook the pasta.

That’s really it. We can talk more later about shapes, brands, varieties, and flavors, but for now, remember those three rules and you should be fine. Let’s look at a recipe.

Pasta With Quick Tomato Sauce

  • 1 pound dried pasta (any shape — I like penne, but you could use anything)
  • Salt
  • About 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter (try to use real olive oil or real butter — vegetable oil, margarine, etc. will adversely affect the flavor of this sauce)
  • About 1 tablespoon minced or crushed garlic
  • About 1 teaspoon crushed dried red peppers (optional)
  • 1 28-oz can whole, diced or pureed tomatoes (in a pinch, you can use stewed tomatoes, but I would try to stay away from those.  Also stay away from pre-flavored tomatoes, such as those “with Mexican Spices!” or “with basil and oregano!”; they’re pretty bad)
  • 1/4 — 1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese (don’t use the stuff in the can; if that’s all you have, you’re better off leaving it out all together)

Get your largest pot of water boiling — you want at least a gallon.  Salt it with about a tablespoon of salt.  You want it to be quite salty — they say “it should taste like the sea”.

While the water gets going, heat up a very large saute pan or a saucepan over medium-high.  Add the oil or butter and your garlic and red pepper (if using).  Cook until just barely golden — about a minute or two.  Don’t let it brown at all; this will result in a burnt taste (if that does happen, throw it all out and start over. Trust me!).

Open up your can of tomatoes.  If using whole tomatoes, use your hands or a fork to break them up a bit.  Dump them into the pan (don’t bother to drain) and stir a couple of times.  Turn down to medium if it’s spattering a whole lot, and stir in about a half-teaspoon of salt.

Once your water is at a good, rolling boil, dump in your pasta.  Give it a couple of stirs and set a time for 8 minutes.  After 8 minutes, check the pasta every minute or so; you’re looking for pasta that is al dente — firm to the bite.  Meanwhile, keep stirring that tomato sauce every once in a while.

Drain the pasta and immediately add the sauce (you can do this in a large serving bowl, or you can just dump the pasta back into the pot that you cooked it in and add the sauce on top of that).  Toss well, adding a little bit of water if the sauce isn’t coating the pasta as well as you’d like.  Top with the cheese, passing more at the table.


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