This one is for the readers that have asked for some more quick meal ideas. Halloween was yesterday and there is no better example of a time when you need to haul some serious ass in the kitchen. Everyone leaves work early to get home to prepare for the madness of insane kids hopped up on sugar and banging down your door for more so you end up in hours of traffic in the mad rush. If that isn’t awesome enough you pick up your kids and is there any other day that they are more wired? My neighborhood is FILLED with young kids and on Halloween it is like they form their own miniature army and all the soldiers are whacked out on candy and ready to revolt. So, all that to say cooking on Halloween is not without its challenges. You need something lightning fast and something that can get your kids attention away from mountains of candy for at least 5 minutes.
This pasta dish is great for that because you can make it a different way every time you make it and by the time your pasta is cooked your sauce is ready every single time. It’s from the Jamie Oliver book that I reviewed the other day and is one I rely on regularly when I am alone with my maniac barbarian kids. I’ve yet to meet a kid who doesn’t like it and, as you’ll see shortly, it can be added to in an endless amount of ways so you will never get bored of it. Here we go!
Super Simple Tomato Pasta
1 28 oz can of unsalted diced tomatoes(Jamie uses a 14 oz can but I like lots of nice chunks of tomato)
1 small bunch fresh basil
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 fresh chili pepper if you like a bit of heat
1 500 gram pack of spaghetti(or whatever noodles you like really)
First thing you want to do is boil a few litres of salted water for the pasta. Don’t be a wuss with the salt here. This is where the pasta will get some flavor so use 2 or 3 teaspoons in there. For the love of crumb cake don’t rinse the pasta once it’s ready. Strain it and that’s it. Rinsing it will just remove all of the salt you just added in the water. Alright, so while the water is heating up to boil you can finely chop the garlic cloves and remove the leaves from the stems of the basil. Now don’t throw out the stems though! Finely chop those up too and heat up a sauce pan on a medium high heat with the olive oil. Once the pan is hot add the garlic and basil stem to the pan. If you are adding a chili pepper this is where you would finely slice it and throw it into the pan with the garlic and basil stems. You’ll get a great smell from the stem and it adds a little extra ballsier basil flavor than just the leaves. Ok, right here is the only slightly tricky part. You want the garlic to start to turn a bit brown but you DO NOT want it to get dark. Garlic can burn really quickly and can turn a fantastic dish into a bowl of broken dreams.
Now toss the basil leaves into the pan. Now damn it! NOW! Then add the tomatoes and give everything a good stir around. Let’s say counter clockwise at least 17 times. If you are one of those weirdos who stirs clockwise then stir it no more than 14 times. Season with salt and pepper. That’s it. Once the pasta is cooked you toss it all together with the sauce and you got yourself a meal in what? 15 minutes max? This dish is perfectly fine like this or, like in Oliver’s book, you can add all kinds of stuff to change it up.
There are two variations of this dish that I use often that both of my kids love. In one instance I throw in a pound or two of shrimp, a handful or two of arugula and the juice of half a lemon and grate some fresh parmesan on top. The only problem I have with doing this version is that most of the frozen packs of shrimp that can be found in grocery stores, at least the ones by me in any case, are from China. Nothing against the Chinese but if you do a little research you’ll quickly find that much of the seafood and fish that come from China are not very well regulated and just don’t seem safe to consume. I would do the research for you but I have done it once and I am still working past the haunting images and words I discovered and the weeping inside my soul with sadness and fear that I have eaten this stuff and given it to my kids. Ok, done rambling now but just try to get fresh shrimp or do the work to find a reputable frozen brand. For the children. Please, think of the children.
This time I went with another preparation that my kids love and probably the one I prefer. All you need to do is add a few handfuls of baby spinach into the tomato sauce about a minute before the pasta is ready. After that once the pasta is tossed with the sauce(wow I didn’t see that rhyme coming!) you top the dish with some crumbled feta cheese and KABLOOEY! you got yourself a fancy pasta dish in minutes!
But don’t stop there! You can add some cooked sausages and white wine. Maybe even some heavy cream and bacon another time. How about a can of tuna and some black olives? Dang, I just made this yesterday and I am already starting to crave it again!
For any of you who are shy to get into the kitchen this is perhaps the best dish I know of that will boost your confidence and have you banging out sexy meals in minutes flat.