Simplest Pasta Dish with Canned Tomatoes
I’m a saucy guy. Hot sauce, tomato sauce, gravy, ketchup, cream sauce, rose sauce, sauce with vodka and sauce with out. Meat sauce, vegetarian sauce, dipping sauce and jus. Soup makes a good sauce for the right sandwich and even a glass of milk can be considered sauce if you’re dipping oatmeal cookies into it.
But this recipe doesn’t have a lot of sauce. And that’s good – because I’m learning to eat sauce in moderation and not smother the lights out of anything else that I’ve cooked (but I never want to be fully cured).
Here’s a few tips to get the most from this recipe:
- Use homemade pasta. Our recipe for homemade semolina pasta is what we used and it was the absolute best pasta for this.
- Chop all of your ingredients in advance (we did this as the water was coming to a boil).
- Fresh chopped garlic is a must. Avoid the canned or powdered stuff for best results.
- Whole canned tomatoes are where it’s at. Once again homemade/ preserved tomatoes will be the best.
- There’s a lot of butter. It’s part of the flavor in the dish; reducing it will significantly impact flavor.
- Not all stock is equal. We used chicken stock (which I recommend although vegetarians could substitute a good vegetable broth here). Homemade is great but if you are buying chicken stock, avoid the commercial products and head to a butcher that sells whole and part chickens, preferably from small farms. The product will simply be superior in many ways, including taste.
Ingredients (Serves 2 very hungry adults or is part of a complete meal for 4)
- 0.5 pounds of fresh pasta
- 1-2 small-medium onions, chopped fine
- 0.25 cup (or less) celery, chopped fine
- 0.25-0.5 cups of chopped flat leaf (“Italian”) parsley
- 2-3 tablespoons butter
- 2-3 tablespoons chicken stock (or vegetable, per above)
- 1-2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic.
- 2 cups of stewed tomatoes (and their juice)
- 0.5 lemons
- Chili flakes
- Set a large pot of salted water to boil. Use more water than you think you need and taste after salting (it should taste fairly salty but you should be able to drink it without wincing).
- Prepare the vegetables. The sauce should take 4-5 minutes to make. Try to time it so that you finish making the sauce as your pasta finishes cooking (if in doubt, try to finish the pasta before the sauce and not the other way around). The following all takes place in less than 5 minutes:
- Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a large, heavy frying pan. Cast iron is my favorite.
- Once it’s melted, add the garlic. Stir for 5-10 seconds (no longer) and toss the onion in. Cook, stirring gently, until the onion softens slightly. This should take about 2 minutes.
- Add the celery. Cook for a minute more.
- Add the stock, lemon juice and juice from the stewed tomatoes. Turn the heat high and reduce for a minute.
- Season with salt, pepper and chili flakes.
- Add the tomatoes. Gently cut them with your spoon to incorporate and warm (30 seconds or so).
- Strain your pasta (remove the sauce from the heat if you must) and add the noodles to the frying pan. Stir to heat.
- Taste again to adjust seasoning.
- Remove the frying pan from the heat, toss the parsley in and stir.
You can eat this as-is or top with the cheese of your choice (parmesan or pecorino are my recommendations).
Do you have a favorite simple pasta sauce? What are your secrets?