I love making spaghetti dishes because oftentimes you have all the ingredients you need even when your kitchen seems bare (spaghetti, olive oil, salt, canned tomatoes, dried herbs, garlic, parmesan cheese!). I’m calling these recipes Sunday Afternoon dishes because that always seems to be the time of the week when David and I are in no mood to cook but need a good meal.
Here are 4 recipes that are quick, delicious, and easy to change up based on what’s in your kitchen:
#1. Spaghetti with Speedy Cherry Tomato Sauce
This one is spectacular. It comes from my Nonno’s (Italian for “grandpa”) personal recipe collection…
- 2-3 TBSP sea salt
- ½ lb spaghetti
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/8 tsp. Dried red pepper flakes (I never measure, a quick shake does the trick)
- 2-3 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ lb cherry tomatoes, cut in half or quarters (I usually just buy a small container of them at the grocery store. Grape tomatoes or even regular tomatoes would also work)
- 1 cup reserved pasta cooking water
- 1-2 TBSP of your favorite dried or fresh herb – like basil, parsley, or oregano. (Choose ONE)
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil, then add the salt and spaghetti. Cook until spaghetti is quite al dente (still hard) and about ¾ of the way done. (If you’re confused about how long to cook, check the box, if your spaghetti says it takes 9-10 minutes to cook, cook for about 7 minutes, etc.)
While pasta is cooking, place garlic and chili pepper in a large skillet and drizzle with the oil. Place over medium heat and cook until the garlic barely begins to brown. Then add the cherry tomatoes, raise the heat to high, and cook until the tomatoes are wilted, about 4-5 minutes.
When the pasta is cooked to quite al dente, drain, reserving 1 cup of the starchy pasta water. Add the drained pasta to the sauce in the skillet. Pour in ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water and cook over the highest heat, stirring with a wooden fork to mix the pasta and sauce very well. Add more pasta cooking water if the sauce dries out and the pasta still isn’t cooked all the way.
Before serving sprinkle pasta with herbs and freshly grated parmesan cheese.
This dish would also be good with a handful of crumbled feta cheese or sliced kalamata olives.
(I made this dish this afternoon! Mmmm.)
#2. Quicky Marinara Sauce
This recipe can be played around with like crazy and still always be good. I’m going to give you the basic ingredients and ballpark measurements then let you experiment from that point.
I created this recipe with the help of my Nonno and a fabulous Food Network cookbook called How to Boil Water.
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 can of whole, peeled tomatoes in juice (28 oz can.) or equivalent amount of crushed tomatoes in juice
- 1 TBSP dried basil
- Milled Black Pepper – the kind you grind (my grandpa claimed that Black Indian Tellicherry Peppercorn is the world’s best pepper)
- Spaghetti or Pasta, any shape
- Grated Carrot
- Diced Onion – any kind, about ½ of one
- Other herbs besides basil, like thyme or oregano
Chop your vegetables (garlic, carrots, onion, etc.) and heat oil in saucepan over medium-high, adding the vegetables along with 1 tsp of salt. Cook for several minutes until lightly browned (4-5 minutes). Then, add canned tomatoes to the pan, squeezing the whole tomatoes through your hands to crush them (or use crushed tomatoes, but I think whole tomatoes taste best). Sprinkle in herbs then cover pan and simmer over low heat for 12-15 minutes. Season with remaining salt and some pepper. Serve over any type of pasta or spaghetti.
#3. Heavenly Browned Sage Butter
Another of Nonno’s classics. He recommended serving this over ravioli (you could pick up a frozen package from the grocery store), but I also like it over spaghetti.
- 8 oz. butter
- 24 fresh sage leaves
- 1 tsp salt
Place all ingredients in a skillet and heat until the butter is golden in color and nutty in flavor, and the sage leaves are slightly crispy. The butter is done when frothy.
#4. Pasta with Garlic & Olive Oil
I love this recipe because I love olive oil. Give it a try, I have a feeling you will too. This recipe is also adapted from Food Network’s How to Boil Water and is the perfect “we have no food in the house” meal. I made this recently when I needed an impromptu dinner for some friends and they loved it.
- Salt & ground pepper
- 1 lb spaghetti
- 5 cloves garlic
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Dried parsley (could also add some basil or oregano)
- Grated parmesan cheese
Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of salted water (a few quick dashes of salt should be enough).
While spaghetti is cooking, peel and chop the garlic. Then combine the garlic, olive oil and some salt and pepper in a large skillet, cooking over low heat until garlic is golden. (Garlic is so easy to burn and so yucky when you do, so watch it closely, it will probably brown faster than you think.) Remove from heat.
When the pasta is done, remove it from the pot with tongs (rather than draining it) and add to skillet with garlic and oil. Stir the mixture until pasta is coated with oil then allow to cook for a few more minutes until pasta reaches al dente. If your pasta looks dry, add a little of the starchy pasta water to moisten it.
Sprinkle some dried parsley and fresh parmesan over the pasta before serving.
Buon Appetito! You’re going to be something of a super hero when you create an impromptu feast with one of these dishes.