I mentioned this recipe in my last Bookmarked post. I have made this twice now, once last week and again this week with some variations. I'm sorry to say, Martha Stewart, but your recipe was not perfect. I tweaked it and made it better, if I do say so myself.
As I noted in Bookmarked, this recipe caught my attention because everything is cooked together in one pan. And I mean everything. You measure the water the pasta will cook in and throw everything else into it- dry pasta, onions, tomatoes, etc. Once the pasta is cooked all the water should be absorbed and you're left with a sauce coating the pasta. This makes total sense when you think about it. We are always told to keep some of the pasta cooking water for the sauce because it's all nice and starchy from cooking the pasta. Well in this case, you're keeping all of the starch in the pan. However...
I had way too much water left the first time I made this which made for a thin, watery sauce. Now, this may not be The Queen of the Kitchen's fault. I used a different type of pasta and converted the measurement to metric...and then guessed at 340g of penne. I added some butter to try and thicken the sauce some but it was still too thin. The addition of the butter, however, makes a big difference in the resulting dish. Usually you would cook onions, garlic, etc in butter or oil for a sauce. Since everything is boiled in water together, there is no added fat. Which turns out fine but the butter adds some needed richness and rounds out the flavor. A little butter never killed anyone (unless you're this guy).
I was telling my friend at work about this recipe the first time I made it and some changes I would make next time. She asked if I used canned tomatoes or fresh. I had used quartered cherry tomatoes the first time around. I thought that canned tomatoes may throw off the recipe as they are more watery, even if they were drained. BUT. Inspiration struck. I don't remember if it was me or my co-worker who came up with the idea to use the drained tomato juice as some of the cooking liquid, but this worked perfectly.
Yes. We have succeeded in making a genius recipe even more genius (cue evil-genius laugh).
ONE POT PASTA
- 450 g box penne rigate
- 796 mL can no salt added whole tomatoes (according to Shelf Life taste tests the best brand is Italpasta for fresh tomato flavour)
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- pinch red pepper flakes
- small handful fresh basil, coarsely torn
- 2 tbsp butter
- freshly ground black pepper and lots of fresh Parmesan cheese, for serving
Chop tomatoes or squish between your fingers with clean hands (I like to use my hands- when else do we get sensory play like this as adults?) Stir together all ingredients except butter, pepper and cheese in a large pot. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Reduce heat to medium-high to keep at a low boil, stirring often until pasta is cooked to al dente. Stir in butter. Serve with cheese and pepper.