Friday, October 19, 2012

Totally easy Friday dinners: Pasta bleg!

I'm out of time for the afternoon--actually, it has been a crazy week, and the weekend doesn't look like it's going to be any saner.

So instead of the post I'd planned to write, I have a bleg for readers: do you have any totally easy homemade pasta sauces/recipes/tricks to share?

When pasta night is "easy dinner night" here (Fridays mostly, but since my daughters all love pasta dishes sometimes we eat spaghetti earlier in the week), it usually involves a jarred pasta sauce.  And that's okay, but I have some homemade sauces we really like (there's a broccoli sauce from this cookbook that is terrific!).  Unfortunately, none of my homemade sauces really fall into the "totally easy" category...

So: share your pasta sauce secrets, especially if they're easy!  My pasta lovers will thank you. :)


kkollwitz said...

When I was in school I often had tuna spaghetti, which was a can of tomato sauce, a can of drained spring water tuna, and oregano. It was about as cheaply as I could eat and still enjoy the food.

bearing said...

Sausage and grapes. Brown some bulk Italian sausage in a skillet. Toss in some seedless red grapes and cook until they start to burst. Mash some of the grapes up to release their juices and cook till a little concentrated. Toss with bowtie pasta and a handful of fresh grated Parmesan.

bearing said...

Of course, it just now occurs to me that you might have been looking for meatless easy pasta. Can't help you there so much...

Erin Manning said...

Bearing, I was looking for meatless, but that sounds really, really good! May have to try it...

Kkollwitz, one of my girls can't eat tuna without getting a stomachache, alas, but I love tuna in pasta. :)

freddy said...

This is from Rob; his Friday favorite (at the moment):

Cook your pasta (he prefers cheese tortellini)

Drizzle on enough olive oil to moisten, then add

dried basil
dried oregano
white pepper
onion powder
garlic salt
chervil or parsley

all to taste :)

stir, serve with parmesan cheese

(You could add a chopped tomato or two to make it a wee bit more balanced! - but that would make it "girl-food."

Saphira said...

One of my "cop-out" dinners is pasta carbonara, and my girls go into raptures when I make it. I haven't tried doing it without the bacon, but I think you could and it would still be tasty though appropriately penitential. Maybe you know this already, but all you have to do for that lovely creamy sauce is to whisk a few eggs together, add half a cup of grated parmesan or so, have that in a big bowl and the minute your pasta is done cooking you throw it in and mix it all around. You can save some of your cooking liquid, maybe a quarter cup, to throw in afterwards if it seems too dry. The egg is cooked by the hot pasta enough to be safe but not enough to scramble, so it turns into this lovely creamy mess of wonderful Italianness. You can serve extra parmesan to put on top, and sometimes I will throw in some peas or broccoli or something during the last part of cooking. The eggs and parmesan add quite a bit of protein so I don't feel as guilty as I could. If you decide to find an actual recipe, avoid any that include dairy. While I love cream so much I drink it, it ruins this pasta dish by making it all clumpy.

Erin Manning said...

Freddy and Rebecca, these both sound yummy! Thanks!

Liz said...

I don't know if it's totally easy, but my family loves my spinach spaghetti sauce. It's really just a white sauce with cheese, spinach, and onions in it. I start by gently cooking a chopped up onion and a clove of garlic in a half a stick of butter until the onion is translucent, add 1/4 cup of flour, and cook as a roux, then add 2 cups of milk, and a couple cups or so (as much as you'd like) grated cheese (there's an argument here about which cheese is best---I've used cheddar and mozzarella alternately because one kid likes one and one likes the other). When the sauce is thick and the cheese is melted, stir in a thawed package of chopped spinach and cook just until the spinach is warmed up. Sometimes I then run the mixture through the food processor, sometimes I don't. Oh, and I season the white sauce with sage, thyme, some fresh grated nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. I think of this as quick because it's really just a white sauce with frozen spinach and cheese, and if you use pre-grated cheese none of it takes all that long to do. However, not everyone thinks making a cheese sauce is quick work.

Erin Manning said...

Liz, we love both cheese sauces AND spinach! We'll have to do this one!! :)

Turmarion said...

For a day on which you can eat meat:

1/2 lb bacon, chopped
1 lb ground beef
1 onion
2-4 cloves garlic
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
1/2-1 tsp black pepper
1/4-1/2 tsp red (cayenne) pepper

Brown and drain the meat. Remove fro skillet, and saute onions and garlic unitl tender in the fat from the meat. Pour off excess grease, and place browned meat, onions, and garlic in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add tomatoes and spices (you can adjust for taste) and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

I got this from my grandmother (long since passed on), who got it from an Italian family in Appalachia in the 30's (during the Depression, there were many immigrants in that region, most of whom later moved north). Years later, I discovered that it was a variant of all'amatriciana, a traditional Italian sauce, modified for ingredients available at that place and time. Everyone I've made it for likes it. It's not exactly quick, but try it some time.

Turmarion said...

I forgot to specify, but obviously the onion and garlic should be chopped! Also, the bacon is chopped raw, then cooked just short of crispness (you want it to be done, but still tender).

bearing said...

Traditional all'amatriciana is easier than the variation. It's just bacon (chopped, then cooked till crisp in a deep skillet, then removed), onions (sliced, cooked till slightly caramelized in the bacon fat), and tomatoes (canned and drained is fine, added to the onions and simmered a bit). Add your cooked spaghetti to the pot, stir it around, sprinkle the bacon on top, and pass the parmesan. Some black pepper is nice.