Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pasta Dishes with Moderate Preparation

Pasta Marinara

Look no further for the most versatile pasta sauce. Makes about 2 cups.


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, fi  nely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced oregano or 2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon stemmed thyme or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes (3 1⁄2 cups)
1 bay leaf
1⁄4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound fresh or 12 ounces dried pasta, cooked and drained


Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Pour in the olive oil, then add the onion and sauté until soft, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, oregano, and thyme; sauté just until you can really smell the herbs, about 10 seconds.

Pour in the tomatoes and crush them with a wooden spoon or a pastry cutter. The sauce should be chunky, but with no large pieces. Add the bay leaf and nutmeg; bring the sauce to a simmer.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 20 minutes. You want a wet sauce, not too thick, but also not soupy. Season with salt and pepper. T o serve, place about 1 cup of the sauce in a serving bowl or platter. Top with the warm noodles, then pour on the rest of the sauce.

To store: Omit the pasta and spoon the sauce into a plastic container or a ziplock freezer bag; store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Four Adaptations of Marinara Sauce

Pasta Fra Diavolo: Omit the thyme and nutmeg, increase the garlic to 4 cloves, and add 1 to 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes with the oregano.

Pasta à la Vodka: Drain the tomatoes before you add them to the sauce; add 3⁄4 cup vodka with them (be careful of alcohol around an open flame). Once the sauce has simmered and thickened, stir in 1 cup heavy cream, bring the sauce to a full boil, and cook for an additional 3 minutes at high heat, just to let the cream condense. Although we prefer a chunky vodka sauce, you can use an immersion blender off the heat to turn this into a smooth sauce, or you can cool the sauce for a few minutes, then pour it into a large blender or food processor and puree the sauce.

Pasta Puttanesca: Omit the nutmeg and salt. Add 1⁄4 cup chopped pitted black olives, 2 tablespoons rinsed capers, and 4 chopped anchovy fillets with the oregano and thyme.

Basic Pizza Sauce: Omit the pasta. Cool the sauce, then place it in a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Add 1 teaspoon sugar; pulse just until any big chunks are blended, but not until the sauce is smooth. Use this as a topping to your favorite pizza; store whatever’s left over in a plastic bag or container in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Four Easy Marinara Dishes

Pasta Marinara with Clams: Stir 2 pounds clams, cleaned of any sand, into the pot during the last few minutes of cooking. Cover the pot and cook until the clams open, about 3 minutes. Discard any clams that do not open.

Pasta Marinara with Shrimp: Stir in 1 1⁄2 pounds cleaned and deveined medium shrimp (about 35 per pound) during the last few minutes of cooking. Cover the pan and cook until the shrimp are pink and firm, about 2 minutes.

Pasta Marinara with Squid: Sauté 1 pound cleaned squid, cut into rings, in a large skillet set over medium heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil until cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add the contents of the skillet to the marinara during the last 2 or 3 minutes of cooking.

Mussels Marinara: Forget the pasta altogether. During the last few minutes of cooking, add 2 pounds mussels, cleaned and debearded, to the sauce. Cover and simmer about 2 minutes, just until the mussels open. Discard any that do not open.

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