One of the simplest dinners to make is pasta with tomato sauce. And in my opinion, it’s still one of the most elementally satisfying, too. The key to its greatness is in the quality of ingredients you use.
Keeping costs low for everyday meals is always something to keep in mind, but when you make a meal with only four or five ingredients, you have license to splurge a little.
In this recipe, I only use shallots, garlic, basil, canned tomatoes and dried pasta. But if you have a little extra cash, try spring onions instead of shallots, or even throw in some ramps if they’re still around. Purchase high-quality San Marzano tomatoes, the gold standard, instead of the cheaper varieties, for the best flavor. One of my splurges is using purple basil instead of regular basil; it has less of a bold anise flavor and is more floral and spicy, which I love in this sauce.
This recipe also multiplies very well, so if you have the extra time and cash, double it or quadruple it, and save the sauce in re-sealable containers in the fridge or freezer for another meal. When you’re ready, simply pour the sauce in a pan to heat it up, throw in your boiled pasta, and you’ll have another quality weeknight meal in minutes. You’ll never get so much joy out of so little work with anything else.
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Pasta with Purple Basil Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
4 sprigs purple basil, stems discarded, or 8 leaves regular basil, torn in half
1 can (28 ounces) high-quality whole peeled tomatoes, such as San Marzano
1 pound high-quality dried short pasta, such as fusilli or penne
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- Place a large pot of water over high heat and add a half-handful of salt; while you wait for the water to boil, make the sauce.
- To make the sauce, heat the oil, shallots and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the shallots and garlic turn translucent and are soft. Add the basil leaves and cook until they’re wilted and fragrant. Add the tomatoes with their juice from the can, and using the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher, crush the whole tomatoes until you have a chunky sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium heat and let it cook for about 10 minutes to blend the flavors.
- Once the sauce is ready, season with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.
- Add your pasta to the boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is tender but still slightly firm. This texture is called al dente; this should take about 7 to 8 minutes with most brands of plain dried pasta.
- When the pasta is ready, drain it and toss it into the tomato sauce. Season again with salt and pepper, if needed, and toss until everything is well combined. Serve the pasta in bowls with toasted bread and grated Parmesan cheese, if you like.
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