Peanut Butter and Purple Onions

Sounds crazy until you try it.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Relax

I'll admit it: I'm a recipe person. I am not the person who rummages through the produce drawer and spice rack and tosses ingredients together at whim. I wish I were, really; I think I'd cook more often if I weren't constrained by the need for a reassuring 3x5 card telling me what to do. But it's not out of character when I reach for solace in instructions; I am, after all, the girl whose lists quite literally have lists. Cross-referenced lists. Which may or may not be color-coded. And, on one memorable occasion, flagged.

Hey, at least I know my quirks, right?

So even with this pasta -- a weeknight staple that I make all the time when neither Dimples nor I can muster the energy to choose a delivery option -- I reach for my recipe box. It's just about the easiest pasta sauce you can imagine. In fact, I'm sure all of us have a version of this up our various sleeves -- a simple, garlicky tomato sauce whipped together from pantry staples. I like this one because it's vegetarian and spicy, and because it uses pecorino romano, which gives it a tangy, salty kick.

I don't know what was different tonight, but I didn't realize until I was scooping the pasta into our bowls that I hadn't taken out the recipe. And I didn't miss it! Can you believe it? Maybe I'll become one of those instinctive cooks after all...well, probably not. But it's a step.

Pardon the lack of photos, but this is not a particularly photogenic recipe (ok, I tried, and failed) -- but it is just what I want on a chilly Wednesday night, when the prospect of going to the store is entirely dismaying.

Pantry Pasta

1 lb. pasta of choice (we prefer penne rigate; I'd avoid long pasta)
1 T. olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (reduce considerably if you prefer less heat)
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 to 1 1/2 c. freshly grated pecorino romano
handful chopped fresh basil, if you happen to have it on hand

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente.

While the water is heating, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a largish skillet. Add the garlic and red pepper and saute until the garlic is golden and you can really smell the pepper. Pour tomatoes and wine into the skillet, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens.

Drain the pasta and return it to the cooking pot, reserving about half a cup of the pasta water. Add the sauce to the pasta and toss to coat. If the sauce is too thick, add some pasta water to thin it out. Add the grated cheese and stir well. Divide the pasta into bowls and sprinkle the basil over the top, if you are so inclined.

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