Pasta with tomato sauce is a staple. It’s one of those things everyone should know how to make because it’s quick, simple and uses 5 ingredients (6 if you count the parmesan cheese you need for serving). It takes as long to make as boiling a pot of water and cooking the pasta – so about 20 minutes.
I hasten to add that I am not talking about lovingly reducing a saucepan of fresh tomatoes to make a luscious sauce. This is all about pantry staples. Garlic, olive oil, 2 tins of Italian tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and a box of pasta. If you happen to have any fresh basil hanging around then even better. If not, too bad, leave it out. With a handful of baby spinach leaves and a grating of parmesan over the top, having only half an hour to get dinner on the table will not be a problem.
Once the basics are mastered you can add a few extras to make it more interesting. Fry a few slices of eggplant, add some black olives, and it goes to a whole other level, and still within 30 minutes. These additions have the added benefit of increasing the nutritional value of what is otherwise just pasta and tomatoes. Win win.
There have been times when this has been on weekly repeat… and eventually everyone gets sick of it. But if it’s gone for more than a month you can guarantee someone will say: what about tomato pasta, when asked what they want for dinner. Enjoy!
- 1 x 500 gram box of pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- handful of basil leaves, torn
- 2 x 400 gram tins Italian tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- ½ teaspoon Maldon salt
- pepper to taste
- 1 small eggplant (aubergine sliced into rounds)
- handful Kalamata olives, sliced
- parmesan cheese, grated
- baby spinach or rocket (arugula) leaves
- Put a large saucepan of water on to boil. Once boiling cook pasta according to packet instructions.
- (If adding eggplant, heat a splash of olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the slices of eggplant until they are browned and creamy in texture. Remove to a plate.)
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and gently fry the garlic and half the torn basil leaves for a minute or so, until they become fragrant.
- Add the tins of tomatoes, and use a potato masher to break them up once they are in the pan.
- Add the balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper. Bring to boil, then turn down to simmer gently. It is really important that the tomatoes don't thicken too much. It should be reasonably liquidy when it mixes with the pasta. Add a little water from the pasta pan if required.
- Check the seasoning. If the sauce tastes acidic, add extra salt (a little at a time).
- (Just before the pasta is cooked, chop the cooked eggplant into small squares and add them to the sauce, together with the sliced olives. Stir through and adjust seasoning as required.)
- Drain pasta once cooked, and return it to the same pot. Pour the tomato sauce over the pasta and stir through.
- Serve topped with grated parmesan and a handful or spinach or rocket leaves (if there are any in the bottom of the fridge).