When warm weather returns, I find myself turning to quick and easy pasta recipes. As much as I love a marinara that tastes like an Italian grandmother slaved for hours, I don’t have time to duplicate it. Nor do I want to limit my palate to jarred sauces, not when I can throw together great ideas on my own. I consider the following ideas as hardly recipes, just simple solutions to a quick, no-fuss meal for one.
Buttery Pine Nuts With Basil
While the pasta is cooking, I toast pine nuts in a skillet. Before draining the pasta, I reserve some of the cooking water. While the pasta is draining in the colander, I melt a tablespoon of butter, and heat up two tablespoons of heavy cream in the pot I cooked the pasta in. When the butter has melted, I add back the pasta, and the toasted pine nuts. Then, I add in chopped fresh basil. On the plate, I top with Parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper to taste. I think of this sauce as somewhere between an Alfredo and pesto, and easier than both.
When tomatoes are freshest, I don’t want to simmer them at all, much less for hours. I start with soaking a green onion in red wine vinegar in the serving bowl, for at least as long as the pasta cooks, or up to half an hour. You don’t have to soak at all, but it softens the sharp flavor. Then, I add in olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, basil, and a seeded, peeled tomato. I sometimes will drop the tomato into the pasta water to ease peeling. I reserve a tablespoon of pasta water, and then toss the pasta over the fresh, raw tomato sauce. The heat doesn’t cook the tomato, but it does warm it more than a salad. I get tomato flavors without feeling weighed down.
Bigoli Con Salsa
The name sounds so much better than anchovies and onion sauce, doesn’t it? While the pasta cooks, I saute two shallots until caramelized in olive oil and a quarter teaspoon of anchovy paste. I add in two tablespoons of water from the pasta to make a sauce. While the pasta drains, I add three tablespoons of chopped, fresh Italian parsley, off the heat. I toss over the pasta, making sure to coat it. I only top with freshly ground pepper – never cheese on this one. I may not get to Venice in the springtime, but with this dish, I can savor the flavors.
All of these variations of traditional dishes, I came up with on my own, playing around with familiar flavors in the kitchen. As much as I love the original recipes, sometimes quick and easy sauces that I can make while the pasta cooks fit the bill. Save those long simmering sauces for winter, and ease up for spring.