There is literally no excuse we won't use to eat pasta. Broke the heel on your brand-new Zanottis? Have some linguine. Off work 30 seconds early? That calls for a thick slice of lasagne. Is your cat having twins? Celebrate with a hearty dish of farfalle! Correspondingly, we regard a fake holiday dedicated solely to spaghetti as the ideal opportunity to call up a few friends, stop by the grocery store, boil some water, and cook up some mighty big servings of the starchy stuff. To celebrate, we're hooking you up with recipes that are easy enough for a novice to master, but tasty enough to impress a pro — a combination as perfect as tomatoes and basil, if you ask us!
This is your go-to sauce for any occasion, and a great starting block for any more complex recipe. It's simple, delicious, and incredibly easy — plus, it can be made in bulk and frozen or refrigerated in anticipation of future cravings.
1 large can of whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes without added seasoning (some brands come with whole basil leaves, that's okay! We've had great success with the Cento brand)
1 stick of celery
1 large carrot
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt, to taste
Blend the whole tomatoes to a purée. Depending on what brand you use, the extra liquid in the can may be either just water or a thicker mix. If it's the latter, feel free add that to the blended tomatoes for use in the sauce! Otherwise, pick the tomatoes out individually and add to the blender.
Cover the bottom of a large saucepan with olive oil. Just how much you put is up to you, but we recommend a little more than you might normally use for a sauce. Clean the carrot and place it in the oil along with the whole shallot and celery stick. Heat the oil but don't allow the vegetables to brown.
Add the tomato purée to the pan and cover, leaving a slight gap so water can evaporate. Reduce to medium heat and let sit, stirring occasionally, for about 20-30 minutes.
Check back in on the sauce — it should be considerably less than when you started out, and that's a good thing. Add the teaspoon of sugar to reduce acidity in the canned tomatoes (sounds weird, but you won't taste it, it's just to level things out). Add salt to taste and cover completely, reducing heat to lowest possible setting. Let simmer for another 30 minutes. Before serving, remove the whole shallot, celery, and carrot. Garnish with a slice of fresh mozzarella and a basil leaf, if desired.
A little on the spicy side, this hearty sauce is thick, textured, and no pushover. If you've never made a meat sauce before, this is a great place to start!
Basic Base Sauce (see above)
Pancetta (If you really want to get serious, find a butcher that sells guanciale, a.k.a. pork cheek — if you really don't want to get serious, regular bacon will suffice, but pancetta is a great medium and can easily be found in most stores)
One yellow onion
Red pepper flakes
Grated Pecorino Romano
Lightly coat a frying pan in olive oil. You only need just enough to cover the surface — the pork will let off plenty of grease while cooking.
Cut the onion and pancetta into medium-sized pieces (about 1/2 inch). Brown the onion in the oil, then add the pancetta and cook for several minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the onions, oil, pancetta, and red pepper flakes (to taste) to the pre-heated sauce. Let simmer on low heat for 30 minutes (which should be plenty of time to heat water and cook the bucatini). Serve with Pecorino.
White Pasta e Fagioli With Rosemary
Nothing beats this dressed-up, tomato-free version of pasta e fagioli on a winter night. Half-soup, half-stew, all amazing, this is definitely one for the record books. This dish is traditionally made with leftover pieces of broken-up pasta, which creates a great texture. However, since you probably don't keep a ton of that lying around, any long pasta will work, though the thicker the better!
2 cans unseasoned garbanzo beans
Fresh rosemary (to taste, but the more the better — about 6-8 sprigs should do the trick)
1 clove garlic
1 16oz. package chicken or vegetable broth
Spaghetti or other long pasta, broken up into smaller, irregular pieces. Use the same amount you would for a normal, whole pasta.
Grated parmesan cheese
Salt, to taste
Place chicken or vegetable broth in a saucepan on high heat. Blend or mash one can of garbanzo beans and add to the pot. Add the remaining can of garbanzo beans, whole, to the pot and let cook for 5-7 minutes.
Remove rosemary leaves from stem and chop into fine pieces. Add the rosemary, along with the broken-up pasta, to the pot. Cook until the pasta is cooked and has absorbed most of the liquid. If there's still liquid leftover, but the pasta is cooked, drain the excess out carefully without losing the other ingredients. Add salt to taste. Serve with grated parmesan and a sprig of rosemary for garnish.
Photo: Courtesy of Dolce & Gabbana.