You know when you were a kid and you’d make “soup” in the backyard, which basically consisted of grass and weeds and shit in a bucket of water? You were just throwing everything in there, whatever you wanted. And you were probably hanging out with your imaginary friend Shadow because I guess your real friends were busy again (because you did have friends, for the record). This pasta is sort of like that soup. Made with fresh tomatoes, the homemade sauce will happily welcome your favorite veggies or meat. You can throw whatever you want in there… and hopefully have more than a Shadow to eat it with.
My good friend Joel (hey, Joel!) turned me on to the idea of making homemade tomato sauce just a few months ago. He’s a really talented cook who is confident enough to create a recipe as he cooks–throwing in whatever he wants, like I said. I don’t always do this, because my hunger has so much riding on the meal at hand that I can’t afford to mess up. But Joel made a sauce with fresh tomatoes, and I immediately stopped buying canned. The sauce was sweeter, more flavorful and so much more authentic tasting. (Doy??) I also just love a casual recipe with basic ingredients that you can change or rotate based on what you may have in the fridge. I’d just make sure you have tomatoes, onions, garlic and cheese.
I always buy fresh herbs for my sauces–I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me to use fresh tomatoes. Actually, the reason is that I’d assumed it would be too hard. Well, it’s not hard at all.
That’s what she said.
Thanks, Joel! You rule, buddy.
- 1.5 cups large shell pasta
- 3-4 vine-ripened tomatoes (or Roma)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- handful of spinach
- 4-5 basil leaves
- mushrooms, halved
- Grana Padano cheese, to taste (or any cheese you prefer)
Bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil.
While the water is coming to a boil, heat a large pan on medium-low to medium heat, drizzled generously with olive oil. Saute onions and garlic until cooked, taking care not to burn the garlic.
While the onions are cooking, we have to blanch the tomatoes. Boil a medium-sized pot of water. Cut an “X” into one end of each tomato–this will make it easier for the skin to peel off after blanching. Immerse in water for 1-2 minutes until the skin starts to peel away. Remove tomatoes from the pot with a slotted spoon. After letting them cool slightly, peel off skin and discard.
Dice tomatoes, taking care to reserve the juices! Add to onions and garlic. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add basil, spinach, and mushrooms. Simmer, stirring occasionally.
While the sauce is gently simmering, boil the pasta–reserving about a 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Add cooked pasta and a few tablespoons of starchy water to the sauce–the pasta starches in the water will help the sauce thicken and stick to the noodles. Season to taste with salt and freshly cracked pepper.
Grate a shitload of Grana Padano in there, or any cheese you desire.*
*During the nights I’m not with my boyfriend, and I’m home alone cooking for #1, I truly use as much cheese as I want to. My arm turns into a fucking factory robot grating cheese on there like an integral cog in a machine designed to fulfill your darkest culinary fantasies. Then I eat the pasta, hunched over the bowl like an animal, while watching The OC for the 100th time on Shomi and sitting on the floor because I have no dining table and have to eat at the coffee table like a two year old.
…I refer to these nights as my “ugly nights”. I think the reason for that is clear. So ya anyway, use as much cheese as you want. This girl won’t judge you.
Recipe inspired by Joel