Variations on a Theme. Simple Sauces for Simple Pasta

Let’s face it.  The Simple Pasta recipe in the previous post will satisfy hunger, but the point of this blog is to teach young men to cook (well, young men of any age) in a way that will woo women.  These variations remain simple, but they add complexity and a touch of flare to the dishes you’ll be preparing and it is in these flourishes that one crosses an important bridge between just a workaday cook and something more elegant than that.  Beware, once you start playing with these variations you will find that the average restaurant pastas are much less mystical.

Still simple.  Just more interesting.  All of these pastas start with the Simple recipe in the previous post, with one small variation.  Instead of using the full 1/4 of olive oil use about half that amountThey also all simply build on each other so this as about as simple as simple can be.  (just trying to see how many times I can type simple without being silly – probably done now).

Garlic and Olive Oil, Aglio Olio if you want to be fancy.  (hint – you do!)

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3 Tablespoons minced garlic (from a relatively fresh jar is fine)
  • 1 Tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of dried italian herbs

Preparation:

While your Simple Pasta is in the boiling water, add three to four tablespoons of EV Olive Oil to a small frying pan (an omelet pan will do) on medium low heat. Note.  Medium low heat.  not high heat.  Low heat.  The whole idea behind making this very simple sauce is that you are flavoring the olive oil with the garlic so you want to go low and slow.  Otherwise you’ll end up flavoring the olive oil with burned garlic.

Add the garlic to the olive oil while it is still cool.  Give it a simple stir and leave it but watch to make sure the garlic isn’t browning too much.  (which is how you know it’s burned – burned garlic is bitter, not good).

Add the red pepper flakes to the olive oil and give it another simple stir.

Once your pasta is done and you’ve added the ingredients in the simple sauce to the pot simply pour this olive oil & garlic into the pot and stir it to combine.  Serve with parmesan cheese.  Enjoy the adulation of your companions.

Sun Dried Tomato, Fennel

Sun dried tomatoes provide a deep, “caramelly” tomato flavor to a dish.  Fennel has the flavor of black licorice and adds a sweet depth to the flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Bottle (provided you bought one of the small bottles in the store) julienned sun dried tomatoes.  If you weren’t paying attention and you bought whole sundried tomatoes just cut them in strips and they will be Julienned.  (which just means cut in strips).
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds.

Preparation

Simply add the sun dried tomatoes and the fennel seeds to the aglio olio above while it is simmering away.  (simmering just means cooking over very low heat).  Finish the pasta in the same way by simply dumping this into the pot and stirring it in.

Chicken or Sausage

It seems strange to think that you could just add a meat, like a chicken or sausage to this and it would be fine, but in reality that is exactly the case.  You can add this either to the sauce with the Sun Dried Tomatoes and Fennel, or you can simply add it to the Aglio Olio it’s up to you.

In either case, check to see if you need to add a little extra olive oil and butter to the sauce base as proteins tend to absorb these quickly.

Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 Package Chicken Tenders cut into bite sized chunks or 2 boneless skinless breasts (thawed if frozen) cut into bite sized chunks.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.
  • McKormick Poultry Seasoning (if available – if you don’t have it just go with salt and pepper)
  • Olive Oil (not EV) or Grapeseed Oil for sauteeing.

Preparation

Heat a medium or large frying pan to hot and add about 2 Tbs of the olive oil.  Immediately add the chicken.  Turn until just beginning to brown.  Remove and toss into pasta, reserving any amount you wish for leftovers.  (there may be too much for the pasta).

Sausage

1 package italian sausage.

With a sharp knife, remove the skins from the sausage.  (cut a thin line lengthwise and it will simply peel off).  Heat a medium to large frying pan to hot and add the sausage.  Break up the sausage while it is cooking.  Reserve about half of the cooked sausage.  Toss the remainder with the cooked Pasta.

I guess the point is, within reason, use your imagination.  Want to add peas?  Add peas.  Don’t add a whole package unless you really like them.  Like fresh tomatoes?  Toss some in.  Want to add a little cream?  Add it at the end over a low flame and stir until the pasta is hot to the touch.  Remove from the flame and you’ll have a nice touch of creaminess.

At any rate.  You are now already on your way to being a bonafide chick magnet.  That’s worth a day’s work, right?

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