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Break me out of my pasta sauce rut


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Later in the episode, they showed a cook making a Carbonara ... So, it made me wonder what else I could do?

I think the next one I'll try is a carbonara. I've never had it before, but it looks simple. Uses simple, common ingredients, is easy to prepare, and is easy to scale to one serving.

One of my favorite dinner party menus includes several types of meat, one or several of the following: pork chops, sausage, meatballs, chicken legs or thighs, fish, shrimp, etc., simmered in a marinara sauce, and then the meat is served alongside pasta carbonara. The carbonara is a stand-alone starch side dish, more in the manner of rice or potatoes. I've done that many, many times through the years and it never fails to please and even surprise my guests, most of whom, it turns out, still think of "pasta" as being only spaghetti and red sauce.

A good carbonara is a wonderful and handy dish to have in any dinner party host's repertoire, not only as the main course, but also as a tasty side to complement another Italian main, such as Chicken or Eggplant Parmesan, Veal Picatta, etc.


Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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My wife craves penne (or rigatoni, farfalle or whateva pasta u lika) in a vodka sc pretty often. I give in every couple weeks. My version always differs from the standard both from ignorance and according to what I have on hand. But with a few basics it almost always comes out good. (Seriously, it's hard to f it up and takes about 15min)

In largish/deep saute pan or med pot saute half a small onion or couple shallots, a clove or two of garlic in 2 table spoons of OO and/or butter for 2-3min, med heat, throw in 1/3-1/2 cup of vodka, simmer 2 mins, stir in a aprx cup of that sc you made or any non-complicated plain canned sc will be ok. (Couple cups chopped fresh tom work nice too just need to cook down a bit), s&p, red pepper flakes, dry/fresh basil, oregano and whatever else you like for aprx 5 mins. Stir in heavy cream to your liking, about 1/2 cup (in your case, tired of red sc, more). Simmer another few mins. Toss your (aldente, of course) pasta in the sauce, transfer to a bowl, add grated cheese and voila, bon appetito dude.

That wasn't chicken

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A good base recipe is to take pretty much whatever vegetable you like/is in season, and saute, as mentioned above with olive oil, garlic and chilli. Greens have a great affinity for a touch of anchovy too (Oddly, if I am cooking this with something like kale, or broccoli, and don't have any anchovy, I add a splash of fish sauce...). Cook it well - it's not the time for al dente vegetables - that's for the pasta! You want it to break down a little and produce a 'sauce' - although it is more of a dressing. If I'm using broccoli, I usually do this with the stems, and add a few florets to the pasta cooking water for the last few minutes.

With this, it is vital to add a little of the pasta water - it emulsifies with the oil, garlic and vegetable juices and clings to the pasta.

This is mainly for the leafy, iron rich and bitter greens, but also works with courgettes, and even parsnips.

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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While pesto doesn't exactly meet the criteria laid out in the opening post, it compensates by being easily freezable. You whip up a batch in the food processor and then you have it for single-serving use whenever.

And there are so many wonderful and quick pestos to make. That's my favorite...pasta tossed with basil and parsley pesto. And because I can't get into town without a planned visit, I usually use walnuts or almonds instead of pine nuts...not to mention the prohibitive cost thereof.

Yep I love pestos too! Especially with gnocchi, not sure why. Traditional basil pesto is my favourite but I also like one made with semi-dried tomatoes, cashews and parmesan (and a touch of chilli).

One experiment I attempted that didn't quite work was a Thai-flavoured pasta dish. I made ravioli filled with roasted butternut squash (or pumpkin depending on where you are) and a touch of peanut butter- the peanut butter and the roasting give a hint of satay. The ravioli were great. But I tried to make a laksa style sauce based around coconut cream and it wasn't quite right - the subtlety of the ravioli filling was lost. But the potential is there and if you're looking for something different then maybe you could get it to work!

On UK masterchef a few years ago they featured an Italian pasta dish that was primarily flavoured with breadcrumbs- I can't remember if the sauce was oil or stock based. They said it was very difficult to get right because the flavour of breadcrumbs is so subtle- it's not a bread sauce in the English sense, it was more like a clear soup. It intrigued me at the time but I haven't been able to find any further references to it. Maybe this vague description makes sense to someone else?

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I can echo a lot of whats already on here - pesto has been a saviour on a number of occasions in our house, I like to add cream, mushrooms, butter and cheese to give it a bit more ooomph.

Due to the broadbeen glut this year. I made a number of pasta dishes incorporating shelled broadbeans and peas with feta and or ricotta and sometimes lettuce running though it, with mixed success the feta/broadbean/pea being my OHs favourite, I preferred a broadbeen/ricotta/basil mix.

I am also a big fan of spaghetti with olives, parsley,chilli ,anchovies and lots and lots of cheese..

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Recently I've been making a sauce with pork or chicken broth (depending on which I have), pancetta, diced carrots, shallots, chickpeas, parmesan and mint. Mash up a few of the chickpeas to give it a little body.

Sounds weird, but its really good.


If you want the full details, I have the recipe posted on my blog (hopefully in my sig).

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You're not the only only who was intrigued by that Rome episode.

cacio e pepe

Yea! that's what I am talking about.

I took a look at that topic and some of the suggested recipes. It is very simple, but it seems the trick is making sure the cheese doesn't clump. Cook's Illustrated suggests you want the pasta water to be very starchy. It calls for cooking the pasta in far less water than you normally would. But it all looks very simple to try. And seems easily scaleable

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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Here's something I've been doing lately. It's not so much a tomato sauce as a Nage and it's not so much a recipe as a technique. It involves dry toasting the ingredients in a frying pan, Mexican Style. This is a light brothy emulsion so I like to use a thin pasta like Tagliolini.

For 1/2 lb. Tagliolini I use about 10 oz of fresh Cherry Tomatoes (enough to almost make 1 layer in a 10" non-stick frying pan), 2 cloves of garlic un-peeled, 1 hot red chili pepper (fresh or dried). Start this and your pasta water at the same time. Just lay it all in the pan and turn the heat to med-high and cook until tomatoes have charred spots and start to split. By this time the garlic and chili have toasted a bit. This takes all of 5 minutes.

It doesn't have to be a non-stick pan but the juices from the tomatoes caramelize instantly in the pan when they start to split and since this a mid-week easy meal for me I want to keep cleanup simple. You can film the pan lightly with olive oil as well but I don't think it necessary and it changes the way the tomatoes cook a bit.

Turn off the heat and pull the tomatoes out of the pan into a food processor or blender (I use a mini Cuisinart for this). Pull the stem end off of the chili, peel the garlic cloves and throw the garlic and chili (whole) in with the tomatoes. Whiz the whole thing into a puree. It will seem quite watery. Set aside.

Cook your pasta on the under-done side in rather salty water (I go for an almost seawater saltiness). Reserve 3/4 cup or so of pasta water in a bowl. The Tagliolini I use says 6-8 minutes and I pull it out at five because you're finishing it in the sauce. Drain the pasta, rinse the pot briefly to remove excess starch and return to burner on low-med heat. Add a fairly thick film of good Olive Oil to the pot, let it heat briefly, then pour in the tomato mixture. It should start bubbling immediately. Add the pasta back in to the pot along with a little of the pasta water. Toss it gently, adding more pasta water as needed until pasta is done to your liking and the sauce has tightened up.

You should have perfectly cooked pasta lightly coated with a bright, brothy, tomatoey, sauce with a garlic/chili kick. Finish with the herb of your choice and a hit of fresh Olive Oil if you like.

You can do any number of variations on this but the main point is that it's an almost raw sauce but the toasting gives some caramelized notes as the tomatoes basically start to cook in their own skins, and also mellows the garlic and chili notes. Also if you time it all right you can do the whole dish in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta.

I know this all sounds off the cuff and sketchy, but hey, it's my first post :biggrin:


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Son1's needs for "fast food for one" have had us discussing quick but healthy pasta. He ended up adding a handful of greens (usually seedling greens, which are cheap here) to the pasta pot just before draining it, and making carbonara (without cream or milk) for 1. This "add greens to the pasta pot" technique works quite well with winter vegetables such as broccolini, cabbage, or kale to, especially when you don't want the heaviness of stirfried greens.

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I do this one sometimes too which is fast (but does have a little tomato and some non pantry ingredients):

Begin cooking whole wheat pasta. Cook sliced garlic in olive oil ((and some optional onion, small dice), add plenty of cherry tomatoes cut in half cut side down. When the toms are soft, toss in a few handfuls of spinach (oil cured olives are a nice addition here too but not necessary). Add pasta water and cover for about 30 seconds. Add pasta and a knob of butter and toss. Plate and top with pecorino (or parm).

nunc est bibendum...

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Hell2Heights- that doesn't sound sketchy to me at all; I always tend to cook that way. I can see the recipe/method in my head, which is all I'd need to know when I try to do it. I have some yellow plum tomatoes (the small ones) just about ready to pick, and some serranos as well, so I'll be making my own variation of it pretty soon. It sounds like it is just up my alley. Nice post, and thanks.

aka Michael

Chi mangia bene, vive bene!

"...And bring us the finest food you've got, stuffed with the second finest."

"Excellent, sir. Lobster stuffed with tacos."

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I made sausage and peppers a few weeks ago, and with the leftovers, I chopped the sausage finer, and diced the peppers and onions some. A can of chicken broth, simmered, some more black pepper. Tossed with rigatoni and some parm and some parsley. So delicious that I will always make sure there are leftovers in future.

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Whisk together some soft goat cheese, a little milk to thin it out, a few Tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano, some fresh basil, and freshly ground black pepper. Saute mushrooms (and garlic, optional), add salt and more pepper to taste, and toss everything together.

Saute garlic and mushrooms, add fire roasted tomatoes (or San Marzano tomatoes plus smoked paprika), and a little dry red wine. Mix in gorgonzola or blue cheese of choice.

Love this recipe:



Another good one - simple and delicious (Serve with parmigiano Reggiano) -

Sweet Peppers with Pasta:


Edited by merstar (log)
There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.
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Spaghetti Carbonara

This recipe is scalable. Work on 100g pasta per person, 1 egg, 40g grated parmesan, 1 tbsp cream per person (optional) and 50g bacon/pancetta.

Slice up the pancetta or bacon, fry it and set it aside.

Put eggs in a bowl and whisk together with cheese, salt and freshly ground black pepper, add a small pinch of freshly grated nutmeg and the cream if you are using it.

Cook the spaghetti to preferred texture. Drain the spaghetti into a bowl. Add the egg/cheese mixture and stir. This will cook the eggs. Add the bacon/pancetta.

Serve with extra parmesan.

This is what I made tonight. I didn't measure exactly, rather I did a guesstimate with the amounts (well, except the egg. I used one Grade A Large). And here it is...


This is my first time to ever have this dish, so I am not exactly sure how it's SUPPOSED to be, but this seemed to work out well. If anything was "wrong", maybe the sauce was a bit thin? How thick should the egg/cheese mixture be before adding in the hot, cooked pasta? At least it didn't clump or congeal into a mess.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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... This is my first time to ever have this dish, so I am not exactly sure how it's SUPPOSED to be, but this seemed to work out well. If anything was "wrong", maybe the sauce was a bit thin? How thick should the egg/cheese mixture be before adding in the hot, cooked pasta? At least it didn't clump or congeal into a mess.

That's always difficult with any dish, isn't it ? From the picture, you're definitely in the ballpark of what's common. The longer answer is, it should be just as thick as you want it, though I'd have said controlling consistency is more about how you manage the heat, and so how much your eggs congeal in the mixing, than about how thick the eggs & cheese (& cream) are before you mix. My feeling is you want as much cheese as makes it taste right to you !

Did you use cream ? From the picture, I'm guessing no, or not much: I'd say that made with cream, it tends to be done so there's a little more sauce than I see there, and it's a bit thicker (cook the cream briefly to thicken - of course I mean after adding it to the pan with the bacon).

I do really like the variation with garlic, too.

Edited by Blether (log)

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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I made sausage and peppers a few weeks ago, and with the leftovers, I chopped the sausage finer, and diced the peppers and onions some. A can of chicken broth, simmered, some more black pepper. Tossed with rigatoni and some parm and some parsley. So delicious that I will always make sure there are leftovers in future.

Thanks for the inspiration. We will definitely be doing this again.

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two non-tomato pasta sauces that I adore that I don't see already mentioned:

- brown butter and sage, with a bit of parm cheese at the end. yes, that's all. good unsalted butter and fresh sage, finely chopped. It really needs fresh egg pasta. I'd heard of it, but the flavors didn't click in my brain until I sampled it while in Piemonte, Italy. This is the best excuse to make your own pasta. If you are feeling ambitious, make agnolotti. With this sauce, ambrosia.

- in Marcella's Italian Kitchen, Marcella Hazan describes a simple baked eggplant with garlic and parsley as a vegetable dish. Delicious. A note follows that says that leftovers can be chopped and added to sauteed garlic, parsley, and evoo and used as a sauce for spaghettini. Stupendously delicious. I always make extra to have leftovers w/ pasta the next day.

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We just had a really interesting pasta dish at a restaurant the other night. Its pan sauteed trenné pasta with braised prime rib eye, Tuscan black kale & shaved parmesan. I had no idea what trenne was and it turned out to be a triangular penne. What is different about the dish is that the trenne was sauteed till crispy on one side. The texture was just wonderful along with the beautiful shredded meat. I think I may try to duplicate this one at home, maybe using short rib instead of rib eye.

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Roasted Red Pepper Sauce is one I make quite often when I want something red, thick and chunky but not tomato based. The base of the sauce consists of broiling some red peppers and then removing the skin, then finely dicing half and pureeing the other half in a blender. It's a flexible base which you can take a number of different directions. I almost always throw some basil in, it's great with pan seared chicken breast fanned on top, bacon works well in it, I've tried recently broiling some cherry tomatoes in the same pan while I wait for the peppers to cool and adding that into the sauce and that works wonders as well.

PS: I am a guy.

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The sauce looked simple. Pasta water, black pepper, butter, some kind of cheese. (peccerino, I think). I thought to myself "I can make that! That looks easy".

That recipe is cacio e pepe (Saveur/Chow recently featured this recipe.)

I'll second the carbonara. I cheat and just use bacon cuz it's cheaper and still tasty.

Third, I will sometimes doctor marinara by adding lots of chopped olives and pretending it's puttanesca.

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Because I wanted to use up stuff in my fridge...last night I made sauce of cream, diced zucchini, and a knob of Danish blue cheese (gorgonzola would have been better, but I didn't have any) over gnocchi. Yum! The sweetness of the zukes really balanced out the salty cheese.

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Other than carbonara and pesto which have already been mentioned, here are a couple of my other favorite non-tomato sauces:

1) Whole Foods' Shrimp Pasta - I found this recipe from a Whole Foods flyer and it's delicious. It's like a tangier version of pesto. I usually use half parsley and half basil.

2) Summer vegetable pasta - This is an on-the-fly pasta I threw together last week and I couldn't stop eating it.

Saute diced zucchini and sliced garlic in olive oil. Add about a half cup of white wine or so and the zest of one lemon, and cook it down for a few minutes. Meanwhile cook the pasta. Save a cup of pasta water before draining. Just before adding the sauce to the pasta, add some roughly chopped arugula and diced tomatoes (I used some heirlooms) to the sauce. Mix the pasta with the sauce, and add salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste (I ended up using all of the lemon juice). You can also add some pasta water to help moisten and loosen the pasta. You can add some shrimp or chicken for protein.

3) Broccoli Anchovy Pasta

Boil water and blanch diced broccoli in the water until just tender. Meanwhile, saute garlic and roughly chopped anchovies in olive oil, smushing the anchovies so they kind of "melt" into the sauce. Add broccoli, and mix with cooked pasta, using some pasta water to help moisten and loosen the pasta.

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