I’ve been so busy lately that cooking has devolved into a dirty game of survival rather than a hobby. (Seriously . . . last week I burned a frozen pizza because I cranked up the heat hoping it would cook faster.) But, as I’ve seen my free time dwindle away, I’ve become more and more obsessed with building an arsenal of the quickest, easiest most effortless recipes possible. And this one’s a keeper.
I’m trying to break away from my Mom’s American-style spaghetti with meat sauce, and this recipe is the perfect substitute. You do start with a pasta, but then you create the sauce (I know what you’re thinking . . . “No jar?!”) with chopped veggies, a little tomato paste and a splash of pasta water. Then it’s finished off with a handful of Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil – so simple, but completely and utterly delicious.
Tomato Paste Tip: One reason I’ve made this pasta so many times now is because I started freezing my leftover tomato paste. You only need two to three tablespoons for this recipe, so I divided the rest of the paste up into little plastic wrap pouches, twisting the tops shut. Then I put all of my little packets into a freezer Zip-lock bag, so they’re double protected. Worked great! And I did the same thing with leftover pesto.
Pasta with Peas and Carrots
Adapted from Everyday Pasta by Giada De Laurentiis
For 2 people
1/2 pound pasta of choice (spaghetti or angel hair work well)
Extra virgin olive oil
Bacon, prosciutto or pancetta (optional – just use a little)
1/2 cup shallot or onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 a large carrot (or about 5 baby carrots), diced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 Pinch dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed (if you have the time)
1 handful Parmesan and/or Romano cheese
First, start the water boiling for the pasta – your goal is to have the sauce almost finished before the pasta is done cooking. When the water boils, throw in the pasta and add a handful of salt (pasta cooking water should taste like the ocean).
While you’re boiling the water, begin your sauce by browning or cooking the meat (if you’re using). Pour out any drippings (from bacon), and then pour enough olive oil into your hot pan to coat the bottom. With the pan on medium heat, toss in your chopped veggies – onion, carrot and garlic – and sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook everything until the veggies are soft (should take about 8 minutes, so this is a good point to throw your pasta into the boiling water).
Drain your cooked pasta, reserving about two cups of the pasta water for making the sauce. Then add the tomato paste and about 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the pan with the softened veggies, stir and, like magic, you have an instant tomato sauce. Throw in all the dried herbs (or fresh if you have them). Then, mix in the pasta and the thawed peas. If it’s too dry, add a little more pasta water. Finish the dish off with the cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Serve it up as an easy, healthy one pot meal.