I try to cook almost everyday since time in the kitchen helps me unwind and relax. Keeping track of what ingredient goes next, what needs to be washed, chopped, grated, pureed...enough salt ? spice ? With all that happening there's no choice but to throw out all of the days worries. At the end of it all there is a nice meal to enjoy as well, so its a win-win. That does not apply to the clean up that follows, but lets not go there. On days when I want a meal done asap all inspiration is lost on me though. I get into a mechanical mode reaching out for a few selective dishes. There is no energy expended in planning for them. Traditional Indian meals that my mom made fall under that category for the most part - Pappu or chaaru or sambar and plain annam (rice), a quick stir-fry of cabbage or beans, kichadi + kadhi are some of them.
Over the last few years I have added a few more dishes into this category. I make a mixed veg quinoa quite often throwing in any veggies I have on hand and the first masala I find in the spice cabinet. And then there is pasta...
it could be the new rice...the new guilty pleasure :) And I say that as I don't always be good and use whole wheat pasta. But whichever one you choose its always quick to make as most dry pastas cook in less than 10-12 mins. And more often and not that's how long I take to prepare a sauce to go with it. So with that I start this 'Simple meals' category which will make use of pantry ingredients and not take too much hands on time.
There is this tiny cafe next to the grocery store I shop at and they make the best gnocchi I've had. Its served in an arrabbiata sauce that has the right amount of heat and the gnocchi ...oooh the gnocchi. It just melts in your mouth and it has a snow like grating of cheese on top that seals the deal. This weekend when the weather was gloomy and cold all I wanted was a warm plate of pasta in a zesty sauce. I did not have gnocchi and so I used orecchiette but feel free to use any pasta you have on hand. Its the sauce that is the magic component here.
Orecchiette in Arrabbiata sauceCooking time - 20minsServings - 2Ingredients:
- 2 cups - Orecchiette (or any dry pasta)
- 4 - Plum tomatoes
- 2 - Garlic, cloves, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp - Red chilli flakes
- 1/4 tsp - Dried Oregano
- 2 Tbsp - Olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Pinch of sugar
- Toasted pine nuts
- 5-6 - Basil leaves, chopped
- Freshly grated Parmesan/Asiago cheese
- Bring water to a rolling boil in a deep pot, add about a Tbsp of salt, dry pasta and give it a stir. Cook per package instructions.
- In the mean time, add oil to a pan along with garlic and red chilli flakes. As they begin to sizzle add chopped tomatoes and a small pinch of sugar. Continue to cook until the tomatoes soften and break down. Crush oregano in your palm and add to the sauce and season with salt to taste.
- Save about 1/2 cup pasta water and drain the pasta a minute or two before its done. Add it to the tomato sauce along with 1/4 cup reserved pasta water and continue to cook until pasta is al dente. Add more water as needed to achieve desired consistency.
- Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with chopped basil, toasted pine nuts and fresh grated cheese.
This is an uncomplicated, hearty meal for a cold, gloomy day. Arrabbiata is nothing but a spicy marinara and this sauce can be used as a dipping sauce or on pizza's as well. There are very few ingredients in this recipe and so each of them counts. Use plump, ripe tomatoes is available, canned tomatoes will also work. Fresh basil and toasted pine nuts complete the dish. I love pine nuts and usually add a few extra to my bowl. The basil, shockingly came from my ever-brown garden. I had given up on the basil and had even stopped watering the plants and surprisingly I saw it spring back to life. The cheese is optional but a light sprinkle on warm pasta is tempting. What are your go-to simple meals ?