clam sauce for pasta is a simple matter of building on
a basic tomato + flavoring formula
who’s even got the time anymore, am I right? Between
motoring the spawn schoolward and picking up the laundry
from the rock lady down by the stream. Then there are the
insufferable chores: milking the chickens, feathering the
ducks. And the texts! “Hellooooo, are you there? Why
aren’t you texting me back?”
Look, if you
want my attention that badly, why don’t you leave your
calling card with my chimp butler like a normal person?
still, we must eat. And I don’t know about you, but more
and more, I’m trusting less and less the boxed and bottled
“food” products so popular with the kids today. Sure,
it’s easy as eels just to uncork a cruet of Krapco®
Instant Brain Stew, but wouldn’t an honest-to-Pete
home-cooked meal hit the spot?
you what: If you can manage to boil some noodles, I’ll
show you how to make a red sauce in two-and-a-half jiffies
that will leave you smacking your lips like a zombie in a
Why you need
to learn this
that prepackaged food upon which we have become so dependent
tastes little better than floor sweepings.
short, swell peeps. You deserve better than floor sweepings.
The steps you
behind today’s lesson is this: Start simple. Just a few
ingredients and very little technique. As you get
comfortable, start adding more. More ingredients, more
difficult techniques. It’s like how you learned to brush
your teeth first before you started flossing.
You do floss,
only goal here is to get you off of those accursed jarred
sauces. And, look, I’m not saying they’re all bad.
Actually, that’s exactly what I’m saying. I’m so judgy,
this in mind: Tomato sauce, at its essence, is simply
Here are some
quick and delicious ideas to get you started:
this: Go to the store, and find the Italian food section.
Then, ignoring the sultry siren songs cascading from the row
upon row of jarred sauces, march yourself straight to the
canned tomato products, the varieties of which are legion:
whole, peeled, crushed, diced, pureed, ground, exploded,
pre-chewed, etc. I like crushed because I think it’s the
closest to sauce consistency. (I like whole, canned Italian
tomatoes, too, but, then I have to chop them or whirl them
in the food processor like some kind of serial killer. And
that’s 87 seconds I may never get back.) Grab a 28-ouncer.
Next, go to
the spice section, and pick up a small container of Italian
When you get
home, put on a big pot of water, on full blast. Then empty
the can of tomatoes into a small pot and add a tablespoon-ish
of the spice mix and a teaspoon of salt. Bring it to a boil,
then reduce the heat and let it simmer for as long as it
takes for you to make the pasta.
sauce for salt, then toss it with your pasta and scrape on
some good Parmesan cheese. Nota bene: The real stuff, from
Parma, if you can afford it, tastes miles better than the
domestic from Wisconsin — no offense, Cheeseheads.
Whatever you do, avoid like a talking snake that
shelf-stable stuff in the cylindrical containers; it really
does taste like actual floor sweepings.
Now, look, I
know that this seems too easy. Especially considering how
Great Aunt Caligulina used to simmer her famous sauce for
hours and hours. Well, no offense to Auntie C., but, trust
me, this will taste good and, more importantly, not
“straight-from-the-accursed-jar.” Serve it alongside a
grilled chicken breast or a seared pork chop or something
similar, and it will taste even better.
time, here’s the formula: Tomato product + flavoring =
sauce. Now that you have that very simple strategy down,
let’s look at some other ideas:
Heat up a cup or so of crushed tomatoes, and stir in a few
tablespoons of jarred tapenade along with some crushed red
pepper flakes (and minced parsley, if you’ve got a
minute), et voila, a reasonable facsimile of that great
Italian sauce puttanesca. You don’t even need any other
its variations. Here’s you: “But, I hate anchovies!”
Here’s me: “Shut up.” They’re little fish. Not
monsters. Just mince more or less equal parts garlic,
anchovy fillets and parsley so you have a little pile on
your cutting board about the size of a golf ball or a small
mouse or two. Saute it over medium heat in a tablespoon or
so of olive oil or butter for a minute until it starts to
brown, then add your 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes and
simmer while your pasta cooks to combine the flavors. Season
with salt. Done.
Tuna. Follow the anchovy sauce instructions above, and,
along with the tomatoes, add a tin of canned tuna. Sounds
gross, right? But, trust me: Y-U-M.
Clams. As with Variation A, pretend you’re going all
anchovy garlic. Then, just before you add the tomato, open a
can of clams. Pour in the clam water, and boil it down until
it’s almost gone. (You could do the same with a little
white wine, too, you drinky scamp!) Then add the tomatoes
and clams, and simmer until your pasta’s done. Taste for
salt and pepper. Done.
Brown ground beef or sausage or bacon or a couple of pork
chops or anything meat-ish in a saute pan. Proceed as with
Sauce 1. Or, you could take the meat from the pan, and add
half a diced onion and/or diced green pepper and/or a
crushed garlic clove. When the vegetables are soft or a
little brown, add the meat back, and return to Sauce 1.