I never thought I’d be one of those cooks who boast about how their particular dish is superior to whatever’s sold in grocery stores. Oh, you eat store-bought marshmallows? I only make my own. It’s the only way, and I’ll never go back. Ina Garten likes to do this on Barefoot Contessa, and even though I love me some Ina, I think she sounds so snobby whenever she does this. It’s like, dude Ina. I know you have the free time to make your own chicken stock, whip up endless batches of scones from scratch, and grow every conceivable herb in your private garden. But let’s get back to the real world.
Anyway, enough complaining about Ina and back to me. I began making this pasta dish a month or so ago, after finding it in an old Williams & Sonoma pasta cookbook at work. Now, when I was really young, my family ate my dad’s homemade tomato sauce, made from tomatoes fresh from our garden. We were spoiled, and wouldn’t touch the canned stuff for years. Then, my dad stopped making everything homemade, and we were conditioned to Kroger’s lovely selection of pasta products. I’m not snobby; I didn’t complain. But now, everything’s changed.
This dish is so easy, it’s almost beyond stereotypical. Seriously, if you have the time to dump half a cup of the canned stuff and re-heat, then you can make this. It may take a few more minutes of your time, but in return, you’ll enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you’re making a fresh, healthy dinner from scratch, and it’s completely delicious. There’s also relatively few ingredients. True, you’re cooking from scratch. But all you need are a few roma tomatoes, some minced garlic, some kind of leafy green, oil and pasta!
Because I’m having trouble locating my flash drive, I didn’t have the recipe with me tonight. But no matter! Cooking is an art, and I can improvise. Here’s the recipe for my simple tomato sauce with arugulla:
First, start boiling the pasta water. Don’t make the mistake of finishing the sauce, then realizing you completely forgot about the pasta (like I did). But see how fast this is? You can finish the sauce before even thinking about pasta.
In a hot pan, heat up some olive oil then cook a teaspoon of minced garlic for a minute or so. I always keep a jar of minced garlic in my fridge, so this ingredient is never an issue. If you don’t have minced garlic in your kitchen, well then, get some. It’s somewhat pricey but it lasts forever, can be used in a thousand dishes, and makes everything tastier. After the garlic sizzles a bit, dump in some chopped roma tomatoes. I used two small ones tonight (I was only making enough for myself), but you could probably go up to four. Tomatoes are another easy ingredient to have around. I don’t like to buy vegetables unless I know I’m going to use them, but tomatoes are an easy ingredient to work with, and you don’t even need to refrigerate them.
Let the tomatoes cook in the oil and garlic for 5-10 minutes. Add more oil if you think it needs to be oilier. Stir to keep it from sticking. The tomatoes will release their juices and cook down pretty quick, but keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn (I’ve never had this happen, but Joel–who can burn anything–has done it before). You can also turn down the heat if you think things are a little too hot, but this is all subjective.
When the tomatoes are about done, turn down the heat and dump in a few handfuls of a leafy green, preferably arugulla (the favorite veggie of our commander in chief). Arugulla is what this recipe originally calls for, and is really good because of it’s peppery flavor, so I’d use that. You can use the rest of the arugulla in a salad later in the week if you’re worried about it. Let the arugulla completely wilt in the pan.
Then, turn off the heat, drain the pasta, dump the pasta in the pan and mix. Add some good shakes of parmasean cheese to make things a little thicker, if you so desire. Or, if you’re like me and your parmasean is still hanging out in the neighbors’ refrigerator, use feta cheese. Enjoy!