If you don’t make pasta for dinner at least a couple of times a week, you’re an idiot. Or you don’t have a day job.
It’s the only food that can take so many variations, so many sauces, pairs so brilliantly with nearly every food (meat or veg, and that includes potatoes), and can be prepared so quickly.
Nearly every cuisine has an equivalent of a starch with some delicious topping, but pasta is simply my favorite. And since I’m taking Italian classes on Mondays now, and I arrive home late and starving to death, it’s the ideal Monday dinner: fast, easy, Italian, delicious.
You’ve read that you can make a pasta sauce in the time it takes to boil the water. Well, that’s absolutely accurate. Here’s a good one to try when you need something quick and punchy. Vary at will.
Linguine with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
large handful of sun-dried tomatoes (dried, not the ones packed in oil)
2 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
a shake or two of chile flakes, or a crushed dried chile
3 medium slicer tomatoes (or a few more plum tomatoes)
olive oil (quarter cup or so)
handful of parsley, chopped
1 lb dried linguine
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (fresh only)
Set a large pot of water to boil. Now we steal an idea from the brilliant Mark Bittman: Mince half of your sun-dried tomatoes, and cut the others in half so they’re more or less bite-sized but not too hard to fish out of some boiling water.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then toss in your minced tomatoes, garlic, and chile. Turn the heat to low so the garlic starts to soften but won’t burn. While that’s cooking, dice your fresh tomatoes. When the garlic has turned golden, add the fresh tomatoes to the pan — juice, seeds, and all — and a pinch or two of salt.
When your water comes to a boil, drop in the large pieces of tomato. Let the tomato pieces float around for a couple of minutes, then fish them out and add them to the skillet (that’s the other part of the Bittman technique).
When the water comes back to a boil, salt it heavily, then cook your linguine. When it’s nearly done, save some of the cooking water (in case your fresh tomatoes were dry), then drain the pasta and add it to the skillet, tossing with your now insanely delicious-smelling sauce and a little of the cooking water, if needed, plus the parsley and some Parmigiano-Reggiano.
(I used to forego parsley in many recipes, since I didn’t always have it on hand, but the parsley is really a beautiful touch here, adding both freshness and some lovely contrasting color. Try not to skip it.)
Serves 2–4, depending on how hungry you are.
PS: I would have included a picture, but I decimated the dish almost immediately.