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weinoo

Favorite Homemade Sauces for Pasta

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This topic hasn't been broached in a while, so I figured I'd start a new specific thread, to hear about what you all are doing with pasta these days.

 

Significant Eater and I recently returned from a trip to Florence and Rome, and whenever we travel, I get inspired to cook like we ate "over there."  So since traveling to Italy means pasta at practically every meal for me; not for the main course, but as a primi, and I'm making lots of pasta at home these days.  Oh, I mean pasta sauces, which I use on high-quality dried pasta.

 

Our first night in Florence, I had what I consider the best sugo di carne I'd ever tasted...in that case, on pappardelle.  And I'm trying to replicate it, getting close but not quite as good as that one.

It's an involved process, and I'm pretty much following a recipe from what I consider an iconic cookbook I own, Giuliano Bugialli's 1977 work,  The Fine Art of Italian Cooking.

 

I saw some beautiful beef at the store yesterday, so I bought a hunk and stuck it in the freezer for a while, to make it easier to hand chop. The prep for this dish took like an hour...

 

26356825157_5691022115_z.jpg

 

The sauce contains said beef, olive oil, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, parsley, red wine, tomato paste, tomatoes, dried porcini and their soaking liquid, stock as necessary, s & p. After a few hours of almost covered simmering, it ends up like so...

 

26356826457_5f1df9ca5e_c.jpg

 

I like to use it on penne or mezze rigatoni, (Setaro brand, in this case).  It's better over the course of the next day or two, so we didn't have it last night, but it sure tastes good.

 

And you?


Edited by weinoo (log)
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Nice topic, and a beautiful-looking sauce, weinoo! My pasta sauces have fallen into a don't-have-time-to-think rut that involves Italian sausage, chopped tomatoes (the cherry tomatoes are getting good now), grated cheese and chopped herbs along with whatever else needs using up (peppers, for instance). It's good, but predictable. I'll be watching this topic with interest for ideas.

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When I have nice cherry tomatoes, and good, fresh herbs, I really like a raw sauce.  Let it all steep with a good shot of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Or sometimes I'll just heat some olive oil with garlic in it, and pour that over the sauce as it's getting ready for the pasta. To me, it's almost as important as to what shape pasta goes best with that raw sauce.

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I think we are pretty boring in this category.  Ed makes a generic tomato sauce in great quantity which is then frozen.  Thawed, we add to it to render it more towards the Italian, Greek,  Mexican, whatever.  I know, I know.

 

I make a really simple pesto and (alas) use walnuts instead of pine nuts because pine nuts dwell outside our snack bracket.  We do use Costco's parmesan and he shreds it for me.  My hands left that scene a good number of years ago.

 

And lastly, Ed makes his Mother's recipe for Macaroni and Cheese.  It's incredibly North American...maybe even Canadian only...and we love it.  Elbow macaroni, canned tomatoes, fried onions, grated cheddar (Canadian cheddar husbandly grated).  Can't remember what else.  No meat though. 

 

(I know...we do not eat high on the hog, as it were, and I do not cook high on the sophisticated scale, but I have finally gotten old enough and tired enough that I no longer will hide it from you, my incredible cooking eG chums.)

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That's lovely looking sauce, Weinoo.

 

I'm in the same sauce category as Smithy & Darienne - boring, whip it out fast as possible, don't think. Generally something in the (canned) tomato variety or carbonara. Our two favourites are puttanesca or arrabiata, which are both quick to make and I usually have the ingredients for them on hand.

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Lately, I just make a fast sauce due to lack of time... for the two of us, it's a good couple of glugs of good olive oil, 3 cloves of garlic thinly sliced, some red pepper flakes, and black pepper and maybe a bay leaf or two if I have them at arms reach.  That's sweated until slightly browned and then I'll add a couple of shallots, thinly sliced and a couple of spoon fulls of capers which is sweated until soft, then a good glug of an acidic white wine, which is then reduced to basically a syrup.  All this goes on while the pasta is cooking.  At the very end, it gets a couple of spoon fulls of salty pasta water.  Once plated, it gets more black pepper, more oil and maybe a shaving or two of pecorino romano...

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Ah! One of the benefits of topics like this is that it jogs the memory. My other favorite homemade pasta sauce, which I can make almost without thinking right around the pasta, is Alfredo.

 

Now I know that the proper way to make Pasta Alfredo has been discussed in these forums - with the requisite strongly expressed opinions that "this is the ONLY way to do it". I'm not interested in that discussion. The way I learned it was from the wonderful Lynne Rosetto Kasper, who stated in an episode of her show, The Splendid Table, that "the sexy Roman way is..." and went on to describe making the sauce around the pasta. For 1 pound of cooked, drained pasta you melt a stick (1/4 lb) of butter in the pan and add the pasta. Stir in a cup of cream. Then start throwing in handfuls of shredded parmesan, tossing and stirring the pasta, until it achieves the properly thickened consistency. Season and serve. Here's her writeup of the method, although it doesn't list quantities as she did over the air.

 

I have used that method as the basis for many a pasta dish, by the simple addition of (here are a few examples) sauteed onions, peppers, garlic, asparagus, smoked salmon, shrimp, or chicken. I have saved the pasta water and used it to lengthen the sauce and (sometimes) cut back on the cream slightly. I generally use half-and-half. If someone's interested I'll do a photo series of such a dish. It has been my go-to method since I heard her describe it on her show. And I don't care if she was wrong about its being the "sexy, Roman way" to make Pasta Alfredo; this method is sexy enough for me. :P

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4 hours ago, weinoo said:

This topic hasn't been broached in a while, so I figured I'd start a new specific thread, to hear about what you all are doing with pasta these days.

 

Significant Eater and I recently returned from a trip to Florence and Rome, and whenever we travel, I get inspired to cook like we ate "over there."  So since traveling to Italy means pasta at practically every meal for me; not for the main course, but as a primi, and I'm making lots of pasta at home these days.  Oh, I mean pasta sauces, which I use on high-quality dried pasta.

 

Our first night in Florence, I had what I consider the best sugo di carne I'd ever tasted...in that case, on pappardelle.  And I'm trying to replicate it, getting close but not quite as good as that one.

It's an involved process, and I'm pretty much following a recipe from what I consider an iconic cookbook I own, Giuliano Bugialli's 1977 work,  The Fine Art of Italian Cooking.

 

I saw some beautiful beef at the store yesterday, so I bought a hunk and stuck it in the freezer for a while, to make it easier to hand chop. The prep for this dish took like an hour...

 

26356825157_5691022115_z.jpg

 

The sauce contains said beef, olive oil, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, parsley, red wine, tomato paste, tomatoes, dried porcini and their soaking liquid, stock as necessary, s & p. After a few hours of almost covered simmering, it ends up like so...

 

26356826457_5f1df9ca5e_c.jpg

 

I like to use it on penne or mezze rigatoni, (Setaro brand, in this case).  It's better over the course of the next day or two, so we didn't have it last night, but it sure tastes good.

 

And you?

 

I make sauce all summer long and freeze is (when we have our garden tomatoes, that is).  My recipe is almost identical to this except I like to roast an eggplant over a burner on the stove, let it cool and then peel it.  I throw chunks into the sauce....most of it dissolves but it gives it this wonderful smokiness and depth.  

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35 minutes ago, Smithy said:

Ah! One of the benefits of topics like this is that it jogs the memory. My other favorite homemade pasta sauce, which I can make almost without thinking right around the pasta, is Alfredo.

 

Many years ago, in another lifetime, and indeed, in another food time slot, I sat on a number of hospital and other mental health boards and also was a vegetarian.  I swore I would never, ever, ever, in my entire lifetime eat Fettucine Alfredo.  Times have changed....but I still haven't eaten it.  

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I usually start with 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, mined and a medium onion. Depending on what's around I add pancetta,  or ground pork, ground beef and cook a bit before adding a large can of crushed tomatoes, and then I simmer. I add dried herbs as the mood strikes me, usually rosemary and oregano.

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My hands-down favorite? Carbonara. Could eat pasta carbonara by the quart. Nightly.

 

It's good to throw shrimp in it for a change-up, too.

 

 

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Do you all make your own pasta? I never have (don't have the equipment), and I usually see pasta as being a "quick dinner." So if I want a quick dinner, I'm not going to spend a lot of time on the sauce. If I made my own pasta, I'd be much more particular. That said, I usually do one of two things: quickly saute some garlic in a bit of olive oil, add a can of crushed tomatoes and some capers. I love capers with tomato sauce. Black olives are nice too, but not a must. Or, if I'm being really particularly lazy, I will just drizzle some sesame oil over the hot pasta, maybe with a splash of some sort of vinegar, maybe not. Toasted sesame oil makes up for so much.

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I can't recall the last time I made my own pasta.  Most of the sauces I make are really meant for dried pasta, and even though I have a roller for my KA, I just don't want to deal with the hassle.

 

However, I am heading up to Arthur Avenue and Borgatti's tomorrow, and I may pick up a pound or two of freshly made, by someone else's hands.  I've always found the ravioli to be quite good, and inexpensive. I'm looking forward to giving some of their pappardelle a try.

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I had some leftover sour cream/cream cheese base from a dish as well as some smoked salmon. Pasta occurred as a means of using them up.

 

The final dish was possibly the best cream-based salmon dish I've ever had.

 

Mix equal portions of cream cheese and creme frâiche. Add chopped chives and lemon juice to taste (sorry, I don't do measures, it is all by eye/taste). Chop up smoked salmon into small rectangles. Soak salted baby capers to remove salt, set aside. 

 

Cook dried rigatoni to preferred texture. Drain. Add hot paste back to pan, Add sour cream/creme frâiche mixture (again, to an appropriate amount) fold in. Add capers And pepper. Fold smoked salmon through. Taste and adjust acid with lemon juice. Add chopped fresh dill. Serve. Enjoy.  

 

IMG_3432.thumb.JPG.e77fc82f2cd385a6fd6d9adaf8587c4c.JPG


Edited by nickrey added picture (log)
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Though we do not eat a ton of pasta, lately in the rotation have been:

 

Carbonara (always in the rotation!)

 

Cacio e Pepe

 

Tomato reduction with good quality tinned tuna

 

Porcini/Truffle Pecorino

 

Very soon however...

 

Ramp/Asparagus (get your rear end in gear, Mother Nature!!!)

 

 

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During the week I like to cook a couple of Italian sausages then add some crushed tomatoes, chile flakes, and salt. I enjoy it the most when the leftovers are cold and I’m eating it around 1 am...

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Thanks for reminding me of an uncooked tomato sauce I used to make back in the day. It's from a 1979 Food and Wine magazine--the recipe is pretty stained by now--which I just dug out of cold storage.

1-1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (4-5 large, 8-10 Romas)

1/2 c. olive oil (these days I'd use evoo)

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1/2 c. black oil-cured olives

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Pinch of red hot pepper flakes or 1 sm. peperoncini, seeded and finely chopped

2-3 Tbs. fresh basil, coarsely chopped, or parsley, or dry oregano

1 pound spaghetti or vermicelli

 

At least 2 hours before serving, seed the tomatoes by cutting horizontally and squeezing out the seeds, leaving as much  moisture in the tomatoes as possible. Cut each tomato half into 4 long wedges or smaller pieces if you want a more subtle sauce. Toss the tomatoes with the olive oil in a non-reactive vessel. Slice the garlic very thin and add to the tomatoes. Pit the olives and chop coarsely and add to the tomatoes. Sprinkle on a small amount of salt and pepper and then add the dry chile flakes or peperoncini. Add the basil/parsley/oregano and toss again with a wooden spoon (?). Let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours. Cook the pasta al dente and drain well. Toss with the tomato mixture--the dish will rapidly cool to tepid.

 

This is a particularly nice dish for summer, taking advantage of good tomatoes and fresh basil. Serves 4-6. Of course the better and riper the tomatoes the better the final outcome. I also think it would be good with cherry/grape tomatoes, though perhaps the timing might change a little.

 

Now I'm going to have to locate some oil-cured olives to be able to make this. I don't think it would be successful with kalamatas, which are readily available here.

 

Nancy in Pátzcuaro

 

 

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18 hours ago, Smithy said:

Ah! One of the benefits of topics like this is that it jogs the memory. My other favorite homemade pasta sauce, which I can make almost without thinking right around the pasta, is Alfredo.

 

Now I know that the proper way to make Pasta Alfredo has been discussed in these forums - with the requisite strongly expressed opinions that "this is the ONLY way to do it". I'm not interested in that discussion. The way I learned it was from the wonderful Lynne Rosetto Kasper, who stated in an episode of her show, The Splendid Table, that "the sexy Roman way is..." and went on to describe making the sauce around the pasta. For 1 pound of cooked, drained pasta you melt a stick (1/4 lb) of butter in the pan and add the pasta. Stir in a cup of cream. Then start throwing in handfuls of shredded parmesan, tossing and stirring the pasta, until it achieves the properly thickened consistency. Season and serve. Here's her writeup of the method, although it doesn't list quantities as she did over the air.

 

I have used that method as the basis for many a pasta dish, by the simple addition of (here are a few examples) sauteed onions, peppers, garlic, asparagus, smoked salmon, shrimp, or chicken. I have saved the pasta water and used it to lengthen the sauce and (sometimes) cut back on the cream slightly. I generally use half-and-half. If someone's interested I'll do a photo series of such a dish. It has been my go-to method since I heard her describe it on her show. And I don't care if she was wrong about its being the "sexy, Roman way" to make Pasta Alfredo; this method is sexy enough for me. :P

 

I'd like to see it.

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I actually really like the simple Cacio e Pepe, basically cheese and pepper. 

 

Pecorino Romano finely grated, freshly grounded black pepper, and some pasta water to mix it all into a nice cheesy sauce. 

 

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Many of us like cacio e pepe. Whether it's simple to get it perfect is another story altogether...otherwise recipe after recipe wouldn't have been written for it!

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I don't love cacio e pepe - do I lose my eGullet card?? :P Probably because I don't love loads of black pepper on stuff.

 

Almost forgot about aglio e olio, which is about the easiest sauce there is (notwithstanding C&P...). Sometimes with a bit of crushed chilis or anchovies thrown in for fun. I like this with a side of roast chicken. 

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53 minutes ago, weinoo said:

Many of us like cacio e pepe. Whether it's simple to get it perfect is another story altogether...otherwise recipe after recipe wouldn't have been written for it!


But that only matters (potentially) when cooking for others... it's easy to get it perfect for oneself. When I cook for myself, I try to get things perfect for my taste. Don't really care if that makes it imperfect by traditional standards. Besides, there's recipe after recipe written for everything. Recipe volume doesn't really have anything to do with recipe difficulty.

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A rather odd one that we really like consists of olive oil, garlic, white wine (though a non-oaky red can work), crushed tomatoes and a bucket-load of paprika. Parmesan or pecorino romano doesn't hurt it a bit.  

 

I used  our homemade piment d' espelette pepper once and it was quite good too but we can't always get a crop of the peppers to grow so I tend to hoard the stuff when we have it to use for other things.

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I do cook a lot for others, but even when making cacio e pepe for the two of us, I like it pretty darn close to perfect - that is, sauce that hasn't coagulated, high quality peppercorns crushed in a mortar & pestle, excellent pecorino romano, good pasta, etc.  Believe me - I find it difficult to get that perfectly creamy sauce. 

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