Pasta Sauce: Simple, Healthy, Delicious
Here are a few of my favorites made with fresh, local ingredients, such as flavorful herbs and fantastic heirloom tomatoes. – Carmelo Sigona
The sauce…it really all boils down to the sauce! Pairing pasta with a sauce is important because you don’t want to overpower the delicate taste and flavor of pasta, whether it be simple spaghetti or savory ravioli. But first, let’s talk a bit about the pasta itself before we get to the sauce options.
Truly enjoying a delicate plate of pasta means keeping your eye on the pasta while it cooks – you want to cook it only to al dente, meaning it’s cooked enough to be firm but not soft. When using fresh pasta, remove it from water a bit before you normally would, knowing the fresh pasta will continue cooking a little. With fresh pasta, you really only need to cook it in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Just follow the instructions on the package, and don’t – we beg you – don’t gauge its readiness by tossing a noodle towards the fridge to see if it sticks.
Now…on to the sauce. Following are 5 “no recipe” recipes. I love cooking and learning about nutrition, but I’m not a classically-trained chef! I started teaching myself to cook when I was just a kid and found that some of the best dishes were made completely by guessing on measurements. Instead I had to rely on my taste and small tests to get it just right. Enjoy!
- Cook like a pro: Luisa Ormonde, a private chef and caterer in San Carlos, cooked up an absolutely fantastic topper, with your free plugra butter, that is a perfect accompaniment to the free butternut squash ravioli. See her recipe here.
- Pesto pick: Use a traditional pesto with pine nuts and reggiano, or make your own, and toss a couple spoonfuls with cooked pasta – it’s one of my favorites! You can also add in a veggie to this dish, such as broccoli or any variety of fresh shell bean, like fava beans. I like using penne for this dish as it holds the pesto well in the tubes.
- For the ‘fancy’ cheese ravioli: Pasta pillows filled with specialty ingredients need little sauce, especially ravioli filled with flavorful cheeses. For these, I have used caramelized onions with a Plugrá butter base. Simply work the onions in olive oil until caramelized and then add in the Plugra. Wait until it’s slightly brown around the edges and use the resulting sweet sauce on ravioli. The onions and cheese create a complex flavor, but feel free to add fresh herbs for a third layer.
- Gardener’s delight: An heirloom tomato makes outstanding sauce that is quick and easy. Simply remove the skin from the tomato (tip: slit the skin and add to boiling water for a minute. Remove and set aside, the skin will be easy to peel off). Use your hands to crush the tomatoes. Sauté a bit of garlic in olive oil, add the tomatoes and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Scissor in some basil when it’s done and serve. Wow! (I love to use the marvel stripe for its sweet taste and balance it out with an acidic Cherokee purple)
- For the hearty boys: Of course a hearty sauce with meatballs that have been simmering all day makes for a fantastic meal. Meatballs simply make the dish! Be sure to add extra eggs along with great herbs & spices to the meatball mix, and brown them before adding them to the sauce.
- The basics: A quick, down & dirty dish. Sauté garlic in olive oil and stir in cooked pasta. I like adding a few sprinkles of red pepper flakes when I’m in a spicy mood.