There’s no denying it, dear friends: the world around us looks grim right now, with thousands of people dying every day from this dreadful virus, and all we can do is wait until the worst is over, and safely stay indoors. So, what we need is some sort of distraction, a bit of fun, something creative to do – and many people have started taking a bigger interest in cooking, which combines a necessity with a fun activity!
Now, maybe in your first instinct after the beginning of the lockdown you bought a lot of pasta, and now you don’t know what to do with it? Well, I’ve always been a big pasta fan – give me spaghetti or tagliatelle or ravioli every day – and so I’ve been collecting recipes for pasta sauces for years, and I’d like to share some of them with you, dear friends. Most of them don’t require a great lot of ingredients, and they’re all very quick and easy to do!
Here are seven of them – one for every day of the week if you like! (Ingredients are for 4 people; if you’re on your own or in a twosome, you can still do the whole amount which will give you ready food for 2-4 days…)
3 tomatoes, 1 onion, 1-2 cloves garlic, 250ml tomato sauce (passata), 1 tsp sugar, oregano, parsley, basil, salt, pepper, olive oil; 250-300g pasta, parmesan
This world famous sauce, like many of the other pasta sauces, is of course from Italy; it first became popular in Naples, that’s why an alternative name for it is ‘Napolitana’. It doesn’t get more classic than this, and it doesn’t get much easier, either: chop the onions and the garlic and fry them in oil until they get light brown; chop the tomatoes and add them. In the meantime, cook 250-300g pasta of your preference – the classic choice in this case is of course spaghetti!
Add the herbs (fresh or dried), the spices and the sugar to the sauce and keep simmering for another 10 minutes; the pasta should be ready by now as well, so just sieve, put in bowls and top with the lovely sauce and a few dashes of parmesan! Cheap, tasty, enormously healthy, and vegetarian…
3 tomatoes, 1 red pepper, 2-3 cloves garlic, 8 olives (pitted), 6 anchovy fillets, 250ml passata, 2 tsp capers, parsley, basil, salt, olive oil; 250-300g pasta, parmesan
Another Italian classic, with no meat but fish this time. Chop the red pepper and the garlic and fry them in oil; chop the tomatoes and add them. Add the passata and let it simmer for 10 minutes; in the meantime, cook the pasta.
Slice the anchovy fillets and add them to the sauce together with the olives, the capers, the parsley, basil and salt, cook for another 2-3 minutes; Sieve the pasta, put it in bowls and top with the sauce and the parmesan. No need to say this goes very nicely with a glass or two of wine!
Bell pepper sauce
1 yellow bell pepper, 1 green bell pepper, 1 red bell pepper, 1 onion, 1 spring onion, 1 tomato, 250ml passata, ½ vegetable stock cube, 50g peanuts, 1 tsp lemon juice, salt, pepper, paprika, olive oil; 250-300g pasta, parmesan
Another very healthy vegetarian sauce from Italy, full of tasty fresh vegetables! Chop all the bell peppers and the onion, slice the spring onion and fry everything in oil; grind the peanuts and add them. Start cooking the pasta.
Chop the tomato and add to the sauce together with the passata, add the stock cube and 100ml water, the lemon juice and the spices. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Sieve the pasta, serve in bowls with the sauce and, of course, some parmesan as always!
Frutti di mare sauce
200g prawns, 200g squid, 200g mussels (without shells), 1 onion, 20-30g dill, 200g passata, 200g cream, 1tsp lemon juice, salt, pepper, olive oil; 250-300g pasta, parmesan
Here’s something delicious for seafood fans: chop the squid and cook it together with the prawns and the mussels for 15-20 minutes. (Tip: in supermarkets you’ll probably be able to get a packet with mixed seafood which usually includes exactly those three, ready cleaned and chopped.) Chop the onion and the dill and fry them in oil, then add the passata, the cream, the lemon juice and salt and pepper and let simmer for 10 minutes; cook the pasta.
Add the seafood to the sauce and simmer for a couple more minutes; season with some more salt and pepper. Put the pasta in bowls and add the sauce and parmesan – you might even want to open a bottle of prosecco with this special meal!
Meatball, tomato and bell pepper sauce
500g mincemeat, 1 egg, 100g breadcrumbs, 1 onion, 1 green bell pepper, 250ml passata, ½ beef stock cube, 50ml cream, 1tsp flour, salt, pepper, oregano, paprika, caraway, olive oil; 250-300g pasta, 200g parmesan or other grated cheese
This one’s for the carnivores: first, mix the mincemeat, the egg, the breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, paprika, oregano and 50-100ml water in a big bowl with your hands until you’ve kneaded a nice, thick dough – this is a lot of fun, believe me! Then, form little balls from it (about 2-3cm, i.e. 1 inch each) and fry them in oil.
Take the meatballs out of the pan and instead put the chopped onion and bell pepper into the oil; add the flour and the caraway, stir well, then add the passata, the cream, the stock cube and 100ml water, let simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta.
Put the meatballs back into the sauce, simmer for another few minutes, then serve the pasta topped with the sauce and a generous amount of parmesan or any other grated cheese that melts nicely, e.g. cheddar, edam or gouda!
Mushroom and bacon sauce
50g bacon, 250g mushrooms, 1 onion, 200g peas, 200ml cream, ½ beef stock cube, 1tsp flour, salt, pepper, basil; 250-300g pasta, grated cheese
Let’s try something different for a new and unusual taste: bacon and vegetables! (And, for once, no tomatoes.) Chop the bacon, the onion and the mushrooms (unless you’ve got them sliced in a tin anyway) and fry them in oil. Add the flour, the peas (preferrably from a tin), the cream, the stock cube and 100ml water, simmer for 10 minutes. Cook the pasta in the meantime.
Add salt, pepper and basil to the sauce, top the ready pasta with it and add grated cheese to your taste.
150g broad/fava beans (tinned), 200g peas (tinned), 150g asparagus (tinned), 250ml cream, salt, pepper, olive oil; 250-300g pasta, parmesan
Another great veggie pasta sauce that sounds Italian (primavera meaning spring), but was actually invented in the USA! We won’t bother with fresh or dried beans or fresh peas and asparagus; the easiest way is simply to get everything in tins (and it’s just as healthy, too). So, get your tin opener out and the beans, peas and asparagus into a pan with oil; while they’re frying, start cooking your pasta.
Add salt, pepper and the cream to the vegetables, simmer for 10 minutes. Put the pasta in bowls, top with the sauce and some parmesan just like in Italy!
Have a lot of fun cooking, dear friends, keep healthy and cheerful, and stay indoors – there’s such a lot of things to do at home!