Thursday, April 3, 2014

Feelin' Saucy!

I love pasta.  It's cheap, easy, and with the right sauce it goes from something ordinary… 

To something extraordinary!

Too many of us get our pasta sauces from a can or jar.  This is fine if you're not worried about salt or sugar or cost, but if you are, you might wanna consider making your own.  It's easy, cheap, and you can control everything that goes into it.

This week I'll be showing you some basic sauces. 

Next time I'll include instructions for how to cook pasta properly, and...

IF you have the itch, I'll teach you how to make it from scratch.

Basic Tomato Sauce


Everyone needs to know how to make tomato sauce. It's cheap, versatile, and easy. You can use this sauce for almost anything from a topping for pasta, rice, couscous, or meat, a base for other sauces, a stewing  sauce, or by adding a little broth or stock, you can even use it as a braising liquid for meats. It will keep for 5 to 10 days in the fridge, and up to 6 months in the freezer.

Here's how you do it

Ingredients

From the pantry:

1  (796 ml/27 ounces) can of Tomatoes  - these can be diced, crushed, or whole, but if you use whole, you may want to break them up with a wooden spoon in the pot, or in a bowl with your bare hands. Please note that if you prefer smooth sauces, stick to crushed tomatoes or you can use a bottle of Passata instead.

1 Teaspoon of Sugar - Some brands of tomatoes can be quite bitter right out of the can. The sugar will cut some of the bitterness.

3 Teaspoons of basil or oregano, OR, if you're feeling really lazy, use 1 1/2 teaspoons of Pesto

3 Tablespoons of Tomato Paste (optional) - this will be a thickener. If you're using tomatoes that are already crushed, you won't need this, as the sauce will be plenty thick without it.

2 Tablespoons of olive oil

Salt and pepper

From the fridge

1 Onion - peeled, the tough bit at the end removed, and chopped into tiny pieces

Hot sauce - optional

Equipment

1 Medium Sized Pot with Lid

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Knife and Cutting Board

 Measuring Spoons

1 Sieve (Optional)

Put the olive oil in your pot and heat it over medium-high heat.

Watch the olive oil carefully.

When small heat waves start rising off the surface and/or the oil slides easily around in the pot, dump in your onions.

Move the onions around with a wooden spoon until they're soft and translucent.  See the image below.

Dump in your canned tomatoes or passata, your sugar, your basil or oregano or Pesto, and season it with a little salt and pepper.  Add the tomato paste (if using) and give it a stir with a wooden spoon.  Bring it to a boil, meaning that the contents of the pot have started to bubble.  Put the heat on low, cover the pot, and simmer for 1/2 an hour, uncovering it every once in awhile to stir it with the wooden spoon to prevent the bottom from burning.

Taste your sauce.  If you don't like the taste, adjust it with salt and pepper or sugar.  If you like it spicy, add some hot sauce.  If it's too runny, add tomato paste. If it's too thick, add water.

This sauce is now ready.

You can now use it for whatever you wish, or if you want it extra smooth, push it through the sieve or strainer using a wooden spoon. See the image below.


Yields about 4 Cups of Sauce.

Meat sauce


This is another sauce that is ridiculously easy to make.  All you need to do is make the tomato sauce above, then add cooked meat to it.  The type of meat is really up to you, I suggest the ground beef you keep in your freezer, but some say that a combination of ground meats i.e.  veal, beef, and pork is the best.  If you want extra flavor and you're feeling really lazy, you can use sausage removed from its casings and browned in a pot or pan. This will keep in the freezer for 3 to 4 months, and in the fridge for 4 days.

Here's how you do it

Ingredients

One batch of tomato sauce (see the recipe above)

From the fridge or freezer

1 small pack of ground beef (if you have individually wrapped frozen portions, use 1 or 2, thawed)OR a combination of ground meats, OR if you're feeling really lazy, 2 to 4 sausages removed from their outer skins aka casings. To do this, carefully slit the surface of the sausage length wise with a small sharp/paring knife, and peel it off the meat. The type of sausage is really up to you, Italian sausage, be it mild or spicy, would be traditional, but anything you have or that is on sale is fine. The amount of meat is up to you. Some like a thick meaty sauce, some like one that's more tomato-ey.

From the pantry

Salt and pepper - If you're using sausage, DON'T use the salt. Sausage has tons.

1 Tablespoon of  Vegetable Oil - If your pot or pan is non stick, this is unnecessary, as the meat will cook on its own fat. If the cooking vessel is not, use the oil to get the meat started and to keep it from sticking.

Equipment

One pot  or pan

1 strainer

1 wooden spoon

If you're using oil, heat it in the pot or pan, and then add your meat.

Cook your meat of choice in the pot or pan on medium high heat, breaking it up with your wooden spoon and seasoning it with salt and pepper (if not using sausage). Stir it around with a wooden spoon until it is brown and cooked through. Turn off the heat.

Drain it in the strainer.  This will get rid of excess fat and water.

Add it back to your pot and dump in your tomato sauce, turn on the heat to medium high for 5 minutes so that it all comes together, stirring the whole thing with a wooden spoon, and you're ready to go!

Yields about 5 cups of sauce.

Rosé sauce

I think it's safe to assume Rosé Sauce is named for its pink-ish color. This is another sauce you can make using the tomato sauce above as a base.  The only difference is cream, but I add butter and garlic for extra flavor.  This one is great with pasta, gnocchi, shrimp, scallops, lobster, or over cooked chicken breast or fish. The sauce will keep about 3 to 4 days in the fridge, but I'd recommend using it same day if possible.

 Here's how you do it

Ingredients

2 Cups of Tomato Sauce (see the recipe above)

From the fridge

1 Cup (250 mls) of Whipping or Cooking cream

3 Cloves of Garlic  - peeled, the tough woody bit at the end removed, and cut into tiny pieces

2 Tablespoons of Butter

From the Pantry

Salt and Pepper - to taste

1 Tablespoon of Tomato Paste - Optional

If ya wanna get fancy

A tablespoon or two of White Cooking Wine - it will add even extra richness, but it isn't necessary

1/4 Teaspoon of Pesto... for decoration later on

Equipment

1 Pot

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Knife and Cutting Board

Heat the butter in the pan on medium heat until it's melted and bubbling slightly. Move the pan or pot around so the butter coats the bottom and dump in your garlic. Move the garlic around with a wooden spoon until its soft and smells good. See the image below.


Now you can dump in your tomato sauce, stirring it around until the butter and garlic is incorporated, and the sauce is heated through.

Slowly add the cream, stirring it around with a wooden spoon as you do. Bring it to a boil, stirring constantly until the sauce has come together, and has turned pink.  See the images below.



You can now use it on pasta on any of the other aforementioned items. 
Gnocchi Rose with a little Pesto and Parmesan
Yields 3 or 4 Cups of sauce.


Cheaters' Cream Sauce
Pasta with Cheaters' Cream Sauce

The late comedian Mitch Hedberg once said that fettuccini alfredo is macaroni and cheese for adults.

And he was right.

It's basically pasta with a more grown up cheese sauce. Rather than mucking about with butter and cream to make the perfect cheese sauce, I came up with a cheaters' version that looks fancy, but is hundred times easier to make. Since mac and cheese tends to dry out and is rarely as good the next day, I'd make and serve this same day. Serves 2 to 4 depending on appetites.


Here's how you do it

Ingredients

From the Fridge

1/2 a Cup of Plain Cream Cheese

2 Tablespoons of Pesto

Parmesan or Romano cheese, to serve with

From the Pantry

1/2 a Package of Pasta (about 450 grams) - you can measure it using your trusty food scale - any long variety will do, but if you want to duplicate fettuccini alfredo, you'll need fettuccini of course

From the Pot used to cook your pasta

1/2 a Cup of the Water used to cook the pasta - You can scoop this out of the pot while the pasta is boiling, and drain off the rest when the pasta is ready when the pasta is ready. This will smooth out the sauce and allow it to stick to the pasta.

Equipment

1 Large Pot

1 Set of tongs

1 Regular Bowl to keep the reserved pasta water in

Measuring Spoons

Measuring Cup

1 Ladle

Strainer or sieve - to drain the pasta

Cook your pasta.  While it's boiling, scoop out 2 ladlefuls of the cooking liquid into a bowl.

When the pasta is ready, drain it using the strainer.

Dump it back in the pot and add the cream cheese, pesto, and pasta water. See the images below.


Turn the heat back on to medium, and stir everything around until the cream cheese is melted and everything evenly coats the pasta.

You're now ready to serve!

For The Bacon Lovers: Pasta Carbonara aka Bacon and Egg Pasta

 I love bacon. It's cheap, it's salty, it's smoky, and a little goes a very long way. Like eggs, I consider it a staple for people who need a little protein and fat in their diets, but can't afford to buy much meat.

This pasta sauce combines two of our favorite things: bacon and eggs.

It's delicious, quick to prepare, and easy...

Here's how you do it

Ingredients

From the Fridge

2 Large Eggs

1/2 Cup of Cream

2 Tablespoons of the Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, plus more to serve it with

From the Freezer

3 Strips of Bacon, thinly sliced

From the Pantry

Salt and Pepper (the latter, ideally freshly ground) - to taste

1/2 a Pack (450 g) of any long variety pasta i.e. spaghetti, fettuccini, linguine

From the Tap

2 Tablespoons of Water + More to cook your pasta in

Equipment

1 Metal Mixing Bowl

1 Whisk

Measuring Spoons

Measuring Cups

1 Large Pot

1 Set of Tongs

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Frying Pan

1 Ordinary Plate

1 Clean Paper or Tea Towel

1 Strainer

Fill your pot with lots of water, add about a tablespoon of salt, and put it on high heat. When it's boiling, add your pasta and lower the temperature to about medium.

While the pasta is boiling, put your bacon in a frying pan with a tablespoon of water and turn the heat on to medium high, stirring it occasionally with a wooden spoon. The water will allow the bacon to cook evenly. Once the water evaporates, continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the fat comes out of the bacon (this process is called "rendering"), and it's brown around the edges. See the image below.

Turn off the heat, and put the bacon bits on a tea or paper towel lined plate to get rid of excess fat.

While the bacon is draining, crack 2 eggs into a mixing bowl, add your cream, a little salt (say 1/2 a teaspoon), and a lot of pepper (say about a tablespoon, but the amount is really up to you), 2 Tablespoons of Parmesan or Romano cheese and whisk the heck out of it. See the image below.

Drain your pasta using the strainer BUT DO NOT RINSE IT! You need the extra starch on the freshly boiled pasta to allow the sauce to properly adhere.

Dump the hot pasta into your bowl with the egg and cream mixture and quickly toss it with your tongs, coating the pasta as evenly as possible. The heat from the pasta will cook the eggs and make for a nice creamy sauce.


Add your bacon and toss again. See the image below.



You are now ready to serve. Serves 2 to 4 Depending on appetites, and should be made and served same day.


Enjoy!

Next time I'll be tackling pasta itself, gnocchi, and meatballs.

So stick around! 

-Samantha R. Gold

 Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

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