Ever have one of those nights when it's cold, you're hungry, you have nothing in the house, and you don't feel like walking down four flights of stairs, outside, around the corner, and then back up four flights of stairs to get dinner? Well last night was one of those nights where I needed to rely entirely on my pantry to make dinner.
I decided to chef up a quick dinner of tomato and sausage sauce on angel hair pasta. Why? Because that's what I had in the pantry. The key to learning to cook is a well stocked pantry and the confidence to know that what ever goes wrong the worst thing that will happen is that you order pizza. (Okay, okay the worst thing that could go wrong is burning down your house, poisoning your family, or cutting yourself so bad you need to go to the hospital but generally, the worst thing that happens is that you order pizza).
Once you gently push aside your fear of failing and embrace a more improvisational style of cooking you'll be a pro in no time. Of course the secret to improvisational cooking is to know a few very simple basic starter recipes and again, a well stocked pantry.
Here's a quick, pantry made tomato sauce for your laziest of week day evenings.
Simple Tomato and Sausage Sauce with Pasta
1 package of sausage, I like hot Italian sausage
1 large can diced tomatoes, drained
2 cloves garlic
2 tbs onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon fresh herbs*
1/2 cup red wine, one your would drink
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon olive oil
5-6 large fresh basil leaves, diced
salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder to taste
1/4 pound pasta, Angel hair cooks the fastest but other shapes can be nice
Set your pasta water to boil. Add the pasta when the water begins to boil, stir occasionally to keep the pasta from sticking.
In a large cold skillet, add your sausage and enough water to cover the sausages 3/4 of the way. Turn your stove on to medium high. Cook the sausage through, turning the sausages, and cooking until done, approximately 7-8 minutes. Follow the instructions of the packaging since cooking instructions vary.
When the sausage is done, remove it and the water from the pan. Slice the sausage into 1/4 thick rounds and set aside.
Add the olive oil and heat the pan on medium heat. Add the onions and saute until softened. Add the garlic and saute until you begin to spell it. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, fresh herbs, and sausage back into the pot. Season the sauce with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, onion powder, and garlic powder to taste. Start with a dash of each and then taste.
Continue to cook down the sauce until the tomatoes have largely fallen apart. This should take 10-15 minutes. Once the pasta is cooked and drained, I like to serve this up in a big bowl.
Nice additions to this dish include broccoli, chicken, roasted red pepper, or any other left overs that need eating. You can also use a pasta like macaroni and cook it in the saute pan as the pasta is reducing. If you do that simply don't drain the tomatoes or add more water when the sause appears to be too dry.
The sauce will only get better with age so I always make enough for lunch.
* As you can see from some of my earlier posts I have a small garden and my herbs are still growing. For fresh herbs I used thyme and sage but store bought fresh herbs such as parsley make a big difference in taste. If you don't have fresh herbs, you can substitute dried ones, double the amount of fresh herbs.