I try to plan out my family’s meals ahead of time and buy my groceries accordingly. I’m less likely to have to throw out rotting produce at the end of the week if I only buy what I specifically plan to use.
But the best laid plans are no match for real life. Zucchini that was going to be sautéed and served alongside the chicken gets forgotten in the fridge. Roasted asparagus is left for another day when someone (not naming any names here) forgets to preheat the oven. And the green beans just feel like too much effort at the end of a long day.
Then there are the times when I end up buying way too much of something. Like last week. We had friends over for dinner and I was serving a hefty main course, so I decided to keep the appetizers on the lighter side with some veggies and dip. I happened to be at BJs so instead of picking up the usual pint of grape tomatoes I ended up with a whopping 2 pound container.
Not surprisingly, we didn’t make much of dent in them. Now I enjoy those sweet little tomatoes on my salad as much as the next person. But I didn’t think I’d be able to eat my way though a pound and a half of them before they started to get moldy.
The solution turned out to be a simple yet surprisingly tasty tomato sauce that I adapted from this month’s issue of Bon Appetit. The sauce packs a lot of flavor for such a simple recipe with so few ingredients. It tastes purely of tomatoes and garlic, with just the faintest touch of heat from crushed red pepper flakes.
Heat some olive oil in a large skillet over medium low heat. When the oil is hot, add your thinly sliced garlic. Saute the garlic in the oil for a minute or so, until it turns a light golden brown.
Add the crushed red pepper flakes and the tomatoes.
Cook the tomatoes in the skillet for about 10 to 12 minutes, mostly covered. At first the tomatoes will get beautifully shiny.
Then they’ll start to blister in spots.
Finally the tomatoes will start to break down and burst open.
At this point, press down on the tomatoes to release more of their juices. I used a potato masher for this job.
You can stop here and serve the sauce over fish or on toasted bread.
If you want to combine the sauce with pasta, cook your pasta until it’s a minute or two from being done. Add about a half cup of the salted, starchy pasta water to the tomato sauce, then add the pasta to the skillet as well. At first the sauce will look very thin and watery. But then it will begin to thicken and coat the pasta.
Turn off the heat and add some additional olive oil and parmesan cheese to the pasta. The oil and cheese will add some more body to the sauce and help it stick to the pasta. Add basil if you have some, and serve.
Simple Tomato Sauce with Pasta
Adapted from Bon Appetit
4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 lb Sun Gold or cherry tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes)
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
12 oz capellini, spaghetti, or bucatini
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
8 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces (I didn't have basil but I did have some O&Co. basil oil that I drizzled on top of the pasta before serving.)
1. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium low heat. Add garlic and sauté for a minute or so until light golden brown.
2. Add red pepper flakes and tomatoes and raise heat to medium high. Season with salt. Cook, mostly covered, and swirling pan often, until tomatoes blister and burst, 10-12 minutes. Press down on tomatoes to release their juices. Remove pan from heat and set aside.
3. Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a pot. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking water.
4. Raise heat under tomato sauce to high. Add 1/2 cup pasta water to tomato sauce, then transfer pasta to the skillet. Cook, stirring and tossing often, until sauce thickens and begins to coat the pasta, about 1 minute. Continue to cook until the pasta is al dente (add more pasta water if sauce seems dry.)
5. Off the heat, stir in remaining oil, cheese, and basil and toss until sauce coats pasta. Season with more salt if needed.