Sometimes you're so famished you just want dinner on the table, five minutes ago. Such was the case Saturday night -- I arrived home following a three-hour hike craving pasta like nobody's business. Knowing I had the basics to make a speedy marinara sauce (I really must cook and freeze a big batch of it one day for instances like this), I set to work chopping onion and garlic, filling a pot with water for the spaghetti, and, most importantly, pouring myself a glass of red wine to make the whole process that much more enjoyable.
I used canned whole plum tomatoes, which are just fine in a pinch. Whole tomatoes are preferable to diced or pureed -- they're generally of better quality and are easily crushed into the sauce. Also, a good amount of salt and some sugar, to remove any tinny flavour from the tomatoes. I always add a few glugs of red wine to the sauce, finding that gives it more depth and body. A few spoonfuls of tomato paste will help to thicken up the marinara -- you can add more if you need to, but keep in mind that the sauce will reduce down over the 20-30 minutes you're simmering it.
Have some chopped fresh herbs -- basil is ideal, I didn't have any so chopped up some Italian parsley -- for garnishing, as well as some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. I stir some into the sauce and pasta just before serving, and grate more over top at the very end.
Also, keep some of the pasta water on hand to help the sauce coat the pasta (a few tablespoons may be enough but reserve up to a quarter cup of it). This is one of the simplest meals you can make but also one of the most satisfying.
1 28 oz can whole plum tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cooking onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
A few glugs of red wine (optional)
1 tbsp olive oil, plus more to drizzle over finished dish
1 tsp sugar, or to taste
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste
1/4 pkg spaghetti
Heat olive oil in large skillet. Add onion and sprinkle a bit of salt overtop. Saute until soft and translucent, five to 7 minutes. Add garlic cloves and saute for about 30 seconds. Add canned tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, salt, sugar and pepper. Bring to a boil. Once the sauce is at a boil, reduce it down to simmer for 20-30 minutes, tasting and adjusting flavours (salt, pepper, sugar, etc) if necessary.
Meanwhile, heat water in stock pot. When boiling, add salt and dry pasta. The spaghetti should take about 8-9 minutes to become al dente. Before draining the pasta, reserve a bit of the pasta water. Toss cooked pasta with a bit of olive oil to keep noodles from sticking together.
When sauce has reached desired thickness, mix a few ladles worth into a big bowl with the cooked pasta and some grated cheese. Add a small amount of the pasta water and, using tongs, mix the whole thing together. Spoon onto serving plate or bowl, and garnish with chopped fresh herbs (basil or Italian parsley work well) and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Kick back with your wine, and enjoy!
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