Pasta is so easy
When I started this blog, much of my ambition was to explore and celebrate the heritage behind the foods we consume, and even to discover the more traditional means to which those dishes are prepared. However, I always had a second ambition in this site. I wanted to hopefully instill in readers the ambition to put aside their kitchen fears and try cooking.
Nowadays with the widespread amount of food blogs, sites, videos, cookbooks, etc, it seems most people are cooking. Still, it’s funny when I meet those living in fear of their kitchens. They see themselves as the ones who could “burn water” and perhaps remember that one failure that kept them from trying again.
I say there’s no need to be scared. Practically every foodie, cook, and chef had and still has failures in cooking. Instead of seeing yourself as hopeless, try something easier, like pasta.
For the longest time, most Americans approached pasta as the carb smothered in tomato and meat sauces with cheese, but traditionally pasta has more been an easy staple that you can make as light or as heavy as you desire. Visit Italy and you’ll see how many locals make their pasta dishes more simple with fresh vegetables and perhaps some meat. No heavy sauces or overuse of cheese.
If you can boil a pot of pasta and work with some basic ingredients, you’ll find just how easy it can be to make amazing meals with little effort...in the true Italian tradition I must add.
Have a look at this recipe I tossed together one day based on what I’ve known about Italian flavor and some simple ingredients I picked up at the market. You’ll be dealing with a pasta called farfalle, which looks more like bowties. As visually amusing as they are, farfalle is great for holding the light sauce in this recipe as you eat it.
Still scared? Don’t be. Take a deep breath, and dive in.
Farfalle with chicken, tomatoes, and asparagus
- 1 lb of farfalle pasta, cooked
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- 4 chicken breasts, cut into slices
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 bunch of fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup of leftover pasta water
- 1/2 cup of red wine
- 1 can (6 oz) of tomato paste
- 1 tbsp of dried basil
- 2 tsp of sugar
- 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, sliced into halves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- If you have not cooked the pasta, do so. Make sure to save 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
- In a stock pot, heat up the olive oil on medium-high heat.
- Place the chicken in the oil, and cook until nearly done and juices run clear.
- Bring in the onion and garlic. Stir and continue cooking until onion is soft and garlic is fragrant.
- Add the asparagus into the mixture and cook for a few more minutes.
- Pour in the pasta water, wine, and tomato paste.
- Mix thoroughly and then reduce the heat to low.
- Season the mixture with the basil, sugar, salt, and pepper.
- Gently stir in the tomatoes.
- Allow the sauce to simmer and reduce for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Turn off the heat and spoon the sauce mixture on top of the pasta to serve.
The pasta water serves the purpose of adding a little body to the sauce. The starch will also help it cling to the pasta.
The sugar helps remove the acidity of the tomatoes.
Be sure to taste the sauce as you simmer it, and allow it to thicken through reduction.
This dish is really a result of toying around with ingedients, so variating will always be fun. You could use broccoli or spinach as opposed to the asparagus. Sun-dried tomatoes would also work instead of the fresh ones. The pasta choice is also up to you, but I'd stay away from stringy pastas for this. Farfalle add a nice visual, but penne, rigatoni, shells, or fusilli would work.
Some would mix the sauce with the pasta beforehand, but spooning it on top makes for a nice plating. Top it with your favorite grated cheese.