If you want a taste of Italy this is not the recipe that will give it to you. This is a shameful, Indian street version of a pasta in tomato sauce. Lack of authenticity might be a negative but this is tasty as hell, has almost no calories and is almost impossible to get wrong.
Anybody looking for a recipe to start with? The very first one they ever really try? Something to cook when you’re tired and don’t want to try but don’t have the energy to fail? Make it this one.
It might seem odd that what I’m suggesting is fool proof has a much longer recipe than more complicated things on this blog but that’s because it isn’t really a recipe. It’s an idea, a concept of taste and what you see below are broad guidelines. Just keep tasting the sauce and adding more of whichever flavour is scratching your itch till it feels right.
Recipe my own
What you’ll need:
1 packet spaghetti/penne/whichever kind of squiggly pasta floats your boat
½ to 1 kg tomatoes
Foodnote: I know this looks like a huge margin. I’m not confused, it’s just that it depends on how much tomato you have on hand. I usually don’t get my paws on a kilogram of tomatoes at home because my mum always wants it for something or the other that has to be cooked tomorrow morning. So use the tomato puree as your failsafe – the quantity of puree you use will be inversely proportional to the quantity of tomato you have.
300 ml tomato puree (this is about a carton and a half)
2 onions (sliced fine)
3 – 5 tbsp garlic paste
3 tbsp olive oil
2 – 3 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp red chilli flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
As much grated cheese as your conscience/waist allows
Chunks of chicken
1. Pour your pasta into a large dish. Cover with water. Add 2 tablespoons of salt. Cook till the point where it’s almost (but not totally) cooked. Drain out the water and put the pasta aside. Pour a bottle of refrigerator cold water through the pasta to make sure that it doesn’t keep cooking in its own steam.
2. In a heavy bottomed pan throw chopped tomato, a cup of water, salt, pepper, garlic and oregano and bring to a boil. If it looks like you’re not going to have enough to very generously coat the quantity of pasta you’ve boiled pour in a cup tomato puree. Remember – Very. Generously. No skimping on pasta sauce!
Foodnote: Have boneless chicken on hand? Plunk it in.
3. The sauce is going to simmer and cook for a while till it becomes like a very thick soup. The quantities of seasoning I’ve mentioned are only indicative – if you like more garlic or oregano pop it in. Stir occasionally.
Foodnote: Make sure the sauce is tart and flavourful because the taste will end up getting diluted by the addition of pasta. I’ve been known to add leftover packets of oregano from Dominoes, ketchup, hot sauce, vinegar and wrestled the temptation to add chaat masala (I’ve won so far but I know one day I’m going to give in).
4. On the side, pour the olive oil into a pan and gently fry your onions till caramelized and wonderful. Feeling indulgent? Use butter instead.
Foodnote: I find frying onions one of the most rewarding parts of cooking. I can’t eat them raw but once cooked it’s one of my favourite ingredients and I put it in everything I can. Since I’m so in love with the process of watching them go from raw to slightly sweet, gentle golden goodness I usually fry them on the side and add them on top.
5. Stop cooking the sauce. Throw in the pasta. Stir together. Taste.
Foodnote: Not enough sauce? Too bland? Pour a carton of tomato puree (about ¾ of a cup or 200 ml) into a saucepan – add salt, pepper, garlic paste, chilli, olive oil (any of these or all of these depending on what flavor you’re in the mood for) and bring to a boil.
6. Add extra sauce if needed. Taste. Add onions. Stir.
7. Serve with cheese but sometimes I’ve made such a spicy curry out of the pasta that I don’t even need the cheese. My favourite way to eat it is straight out of the fridge cold the next day.
Foodnote: Hide if there are any Italians around.