My mom cooked a lot growing up, and my dad's side of the family are all incredible Italian cooks. Sausage and grapes anyone? (I'm not making a weird innuendo -- this is a delicious combination.)
It wasn't until college that I realized people used sauce from a can. I thought everyone made their own, because it's so goddamned easy. So, basically because of my upbringing, I am obsessed with tomatoes, garlic, basil and CARBS.
I eat one of these three meals almost every day.
Put this mixture of ingredients on anything, and I promise it will be delightful. Here are three simple and delicious things to make, with cheap simple ingredients. (All can be made with gluten-free subsidies. I used to have a roommate who has Celiac, so even though bread is my life, there's that). Also, these ingredients are cheap, but my suggestion is if you're going to splurge on any of them, get the highest quality tomatoes. No pale beefsteak tomato crap. Get the juicy on the vine tomatoes, or the highest quality whole-peeled canned tomatoes.
Red Sauce Over Cavatappi
This the is meal I make whenever I'm trying to impress someone and get them to fall in love with me forever. It usually works. I have an ex in Australia who just wrote me the other day telling me they were craving this sauce. Everyone puts their own twist on it (I can never get mine to taste exactly the way my mom does it and she prefers to serve it over spagetti.). I personally like to use as few ingredients as possible, and I'll share a few tips I've picked up over the years.
First saute garlic in olive oil. Sometimes I'll add a white onion if I have one on hand, but you don't need one. Before the garlic gets too cooked (you don't want it to burn), open up a can of whole-peeled tomatos. My favorites are salted from Trader Joe's and have basil leaves in there. Use your hands to get the lil' tomatos out of the juice, and place them on the garlic/olive oil mixture. Let them cook until they turn orangey, then flip em over. Usually around the flip I add in juice from the can as I see fit. You can also throw in a bay leaf (but remove it before eating!).
While the tomatos are cooking, throw on top some fresh or dried basil, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes if you like a bite to your sauce. Once the tomatoes are really cooked, use a potato masher to mash them into a chunky sauce. If the sauce is losing too much moisture as it simmers, add water from the boiling pasta. Also, towards the end of simmering the sauce (usually do about 20 minutes, but the longer you simmer, the better) you can add in whole black olives, if you're feeling wild. I usually add in a little of the juice from the canned olives -- but only a little, because it's really salty.
It's really that simple. Drain the cavatappi (this is just my favorite pasta and I think the hollow spirals work perfectly to get as much juice in a single bite) and pour the sauce over the noodles. Grate some parmesan over the top if that's to your taste, but I find that this sauce speaks for itself.
Israeli Couscous With Raw Sauce
This raw sauce is godly. The trick to this is pouring the raw sauce over the piping hot couscous (you can use it over pasta as well, for a main dish). The key to a good raw sauce is the freshest ingredients -- ripe tomatoes, garlic and fresh basil.
In a bowl mix cut up tomatos, garlic, olive oil, fresh basil, salt and pepper. Mix them all up good. Sometimes I'll add chopped up fresh mozzarella as well. If you don't like a chunky sauce, you can put the mixture in a blender until it runs smooth.
Then cover the sauce and let it sit in the fridge, so the flavors soak each other up. You can let the sauce chill for as short as a few hours or as long as two days. I'm a garlic lover, but I've found with this sauce, use it more sparingly than you normally would because even a little really packs a bunch -- the longer you let it sit, the bolder the flavors will be.
When you're ready to use it, cook up the couscous according to the directions on the box, and then pour the sauce over it as soon as it's done. Perfecto!
Garlic Tomato on Sourdough Toast
This one is super simple. You'll need: a few whole tomatoes, some high-quality sourdough, olive oil, fresh garlic, basil, salt/pepper. Making this is as easy as cutting up the tomatoes into slices, putting them on the sourdough, drizzling olive oil on top, pressing fresh garlic and putting it on top of the tomatoes, then sprinkling the basil, garlic and black pepper on top. Sometimes I like to add crushed red pepper too, for a bit of a kick.
Then put it in the oven at 350 degrees. Let it cook in there until the tomatoes are nice and cooked and the garlic is toasted and crispy. (I usually give it a good 30 minutes to let the tomatoes really bake). Don't freak out if the garlic initially turns blue/green. This is okay. This is an awesome quick snack or appetizer! I eat it almost every night for dinner and still crave it when I don't have bread or tomatoes around.
Enjoy! What combination of garlic/basil/tomato/carb do you make? What personal twists do you put on your homemade red sauces? Share your secrets!
Felicia has garlic breath on Twitter @feliciaroseeee