I never buy jarred or a canned tomato sauce since I always sense an after-taste in these pre-made and packed sauces – the taste of preservatives, or the unpleasant taste of processed food even in those declared “preservative free”.
When I don’t have an hour to prepare a really good tomato pasta sauce (I promise to post a recipe next time I make one) I cook the sauce using the shortcut technique described below.
Before going into recipes, two tips that will improve the flavor and the texture of any pasta dish you make. Try using them for your favorite pasta recipe and see the difference. I promise you will take it up a notch in terms of texture and flavor.
Tip #1 – How to cook pasta?
The Italians say that to cook pasta properly you need 1 liter of water and10 grams of salt to every 100 grams of pasta. If you’re willing to weigh your salt and pasta, and to measure the volume of the water you use, I encourage you to use this scientific-like method. However, I assure you that a less scientific one will work just as well.
1. Bring the water to a boil: fill a large pot with water, 2/3 of the way, and turn up the heat to the maximum.
2. Salt the water: add salt by the teaspoon and taste the water after adding each teaspoon. When it tastes like the ocean – salty, but not too much – it’s the perfect time to add your pasta. How will you know when you have reached this point of perfection? Easily. Before reaching it, the water will taste too bland and after passing it – too salty.
3. Add the pasta and stir it with a long wooden spoon: this will prevent any of it from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
4. Lower to medium-high heat and cook. Stir every 2 minutes or so, until the pasta is cooked all the way through. Bite the pasta after 6-7 minutes. If you feel it has a white spot in the center, or if it is too hard all over, it is not ready. Your pasta is ready when it is cooked all the way through but still firm. I find that the cooking time (in minutes) indicated on the pasta packaging is usually accurate.
5. When the pasta is ready, remove about 1 cup of the cooking water to save for later use when preparing the sauce (using my second tip below).
6. Turn off the stove and empty the entire pot into a strainer. Shake well, to discard all excess water, and cover with a lid.
7. If you don’t intend to use the pasta within 20 minutes, mix in a bit of olive oil (a teaspoon or two will do) – it will keep the noodles from sticking to each other. This works, however it is less favorable since the oil will create a barrier between the pasta and the sauce.
Tip #2 – Use the pasta cooking-water for your sauce
Before serving the pasta, add the sauce (any sauce!) to a pan, add the pasta and 1/2 a cup of the starchy-salty water you used to cook the pasta in. Cook in medium high heat for about 2 minutes and serve.
The starchy water works in two ways:
1. It serves as a “glue” bonding the pasta with the sauce, thus creating a much better, starchier (but in a good way) texture to the dish.
2. As odd as it sounds, it is also makes your sauce more “creamy”, even if you haven’t used any cream.
Try the above tips in your favorite pasta recipe and see the difference, I promise you will take it up a notch in terms of texture and flavor.
A simple 5 minute pasta tomato sauce
This is a template recipe, you can enhance it’s flavor and texture and make it more complex by adding more texture and flavor to it with more ingredients. Try adding olives, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, jalapeno, mushrooms etc’. Please note that we are not frying the ingredients in oil, but creating an emulsion from the oil and the tomatoes’ liquids.
4 large tomatoes – diced
2 cloves of garlic – sliced
2 TBS of olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 basil leaves – chiffonade or 1 tsp of dry oregano (optional)
1/4 bell pepper – diced (optional)
1. Place all the ingredients in a wok, Turn the heat high.
2. Within 2 minutes, the tomatoes’ skins will begin to separate
3. Stir occasionally. After 5 minutes the sauce will be ready.
4. Add the pasta and 1/2 a cup of the pasta cooking water to the sauce.
5. Mix well and cook for another minute.
6. Serve. You can garnish with some finely chopped parsley for decoration.
- 4 large tomatoes – diced
- 2 cloves of garlic – sliced
- 2 TBS of olive oil
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 fresh basil leaves – chiffonade, or 1 tsp of dry oregano (optional)
- ¼ bell pepper – diced (optional)
- Place all the ingredients in a wok. Turn the heat high.
- Within 2 minutes, the tomatoes’ skins will begin to separate.
- Stir occasionally. After 5 minutes the sauce will be ready.
- Add the pasta and ½ a cup of the pasta cooking water to the sauce.
- Mix well and cook for another minute.
- Serve. You can garnish with some finely chopped parsley for decoration.