If you’re like me, cooking can sometimes feel like a bit of a last resort. On those days when you’ve got mountains of work to do, setting hours aside can feel like a waste when you’d rather be getting on. However, cooking can provide a great means of time management and helps cognitive ability by keeping you sustained and providing a break from screens and lined paper. It doesn’t have to be a complex dish – I’m no professional, but there are little things you can do to spice up dishes that can easily become bland like…tomato pasta. Here’s a method of making it that is a good way of using up what’s left in your larder, and a little more impressive than emptying it out of a jar!
- 1 medium sized onion
- 3-4 cloves of garlic
- Salt/pepper/assorted dried herbs
- 300g(ish!) of any pasta
- 8-10 cherry tomatoes
- Olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar
- Peel and dice your onion as well as your garlic. Before chopping garlic, I like to crush it, as this helps release the oils inside. (Also, they said to do it on Masterchef, so who am I to argue?) Preheat a pan with some olive oil, salt and pepper. A non stick pan is preferable but the sauce shouldn’t be too sticky if you manage the heat well throughout cooking.
- Fry the onions and garlic in the olive oil – add your favourite herbs to help the onions absorb their flavour. I recommend traditional Italian herbs; basil and oregano are great but any Italian seasoning mix will work just as well. If you like a hint of spice, add some chilli flakes – no need to go crazy as too much spice will overwhelm the flavour. If your onions are starting to burn, turn the heat down and add a little water, just remember to top up the salt and herbs as you go.
- Once the onions have browned, add your tomatoes. It’s best to let them soften in the pan a little bit as they’ll be a little firm if they’re still cold. Once they’re starting to fry, take a potato masher (if you don’t have one, a rolling pin will suffice, or anything big and blunt) and squash your tomatoes down into a pulp. The pan should turn an appealing red and look more like a sauce. Let them continue to fry for a while before the next step.
- To the pan, add a few healthy splashes of balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of oil. The sauce will smell acidic after this, but it can easily be countered with a teaspoonful or two of sugar. Any kind – brown or white – will do, but it may be better to avoid icing sugar!
- Add some salt and pepper again, and stir the sauce until it’s reduced to look thinner than before. Leave it to simmer on a medium heat and cook your pasta. A fusilli or penne is a solid choice as it can take on a lot of moisture compared to types like spaghetti. A great touch for pasta is to add some olive oil as it’s boiling, so it doesn’t stick together too much and has a great flavour.
- Finally, as you’re draining the pasta, add some of the water to your sauce. This will add flavour and help stop your sauce from being too runny. You don’t need to use too much, just a splash will do. Cook that off and you’re ready to put the pasta in with the sauce.
- In Italy, the traditional way to serve pasta dishes is with the pasta lightly coated in sauce – that’s why I add my pasta straight to the saucepan, but if you prefer another way, that works fine too. Garnish with a basil leaf and enjoy!