How to make a fast dish of pasta that’s always great?
A number of years ago I taught a cooking class I called “ten sauces, ten pastas, ten wines.” The animating idea was to become a good match-maker. Some sauces need a particular form of pasta. Meat sauces, for example, instead of spaghetti or linguini or tagliolini, are best paired with wheels or fusilli or a wide noodle like fettuccine or tagliatelle. Tengono il sugo, they say in Italian. The pasta holds the sauce. And wine? I didn’t know much about wine then, and still don’t. The class was an excuse to try ten different wines from all over Italy.
Each night in the class, five nights, we did a long sauce and a short sauce. Then we had a “bis,” a dish with a half serving of our two pastas on it, and we opened some wine.
I associate short sauces with summer. The vegetables are coming in. You don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and you probably don’t want all that heat from the stove raising the temperature in your home. Here’s one of my favorite short sauces. Summer, fall, winter, spring. Whenever you find the tomatoes.
The Italians call them pendolini. You get a bunch of cherry tomatoes, slice them in half (or not) and toss them in a pan with a slice/diced onion. Red pepper flakes add some tang. Olive oil, of course. In another pan, you bring your water to a fast boil. Toss in your spaghetti and raise the heat under your tomatoes. Shown here: one box of pendolini, a quarter of a large white onion (about the size of a grapefruit), which will make enough sauce for the half pound of spaghetti I’m cooking.
Stir the saute. To prevent stickage, I’ll add a little more oil as needed. About the time my spaghetti is done cooking, I’ll splash a little pasta water over my saute and really crank the heat.
Mix and toss the pasta in your saute pan. No cheese on mine, please. The tomato is the star ingredient. I want to taste tomato.
Open a chardonnay or sauvignon blanc (or whatever you happen to like) and start twirling.