Everyday I eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast consists of one half of a sprouted grain English muffin, well toasted, with 1/5 of 1/6 of a Haas avocado mashed on top and one lightly scrambled organic egg. Salt and pepper. Every day. Lunch is typically a turkey burger, salt and pepper, and a mammoth sized mixed green salad. If there happens to be some lean leftovers hanging around the refrigerator form the night before, i.e. boneless, skinless grilled chicken, grilled asparagus and zucchini, well, I’ll have that. Waste not, want not. But other than that I don’t often stray. Dinner, however, is a different story. Daily, without exception, I agonize over what to prepare for dinner. I know y’all feel my pain. Chicken or fish. Fish or chicken. I find myself wandering the grocery store searching for inspiration, an idea, anything to help me figure out what we’re having for dinner. I’ll even stop complete strangers and ask them what THEY’RE having for dinner. Mercy. Every single day, what are we having for dinner? Grrrr. But there’s hope. Yes, every now and again there’s a light at the end of the culinary tunnel. The answer is pasta. Again, I don’t prepare this dish often but sometimes you’re in a rut, absolutely exhausted or, after a bad day at the office, you just plain have to have pasta. You neeeed your mouth full of flavor, all silky with tomatoes and olive oil, some nutty, freshly grated parmesan and black pepper all carried to your pie hole on the back of perfectly prepared al dente spaghetti. Oh, yes. This dish is remarkably easy and and so, so quick to prepare. That said, you want the best quality ingredients you can find. I always, always, always use a 100% whole wheat spaghetti in the recipe. The pasta is cooked exactly 8 minutes, quickly drained and, while there is still about one cup of pasta water still in the pot, dumped into the waiting sweet grape tomato sauce. You can use any shape pasta you like but spaghetti seems to grab that sauce really well. The secret ingredient in the sauce is the addition of one anchovy filet. Please don’t crinkle up your nose and look away, please! I promise, I swear on my mom’s honor, you won’t even know it’s there. Truly. The little filet is quickly mashed into a paste and, after joining the simmering tomatoes, disappears into nothingness. Put simply, that bit of anchovy brings a flavor to the sauce you will not be able to put your finger on. It deepens the sauce and heightens the character of the surrounding ingredients. You won’t notice the filet if you add it but you WILL miss it if you don’t… the sauce will taste as though it’s lacking something you can’t quite put your finger on. I keep a small, store-bought jar of anchovies in my refrigerator. They stay fresh forever. Oh, and like all cooked tomato dishes, this pasta tastes even better the following day rendering leftovers you’ll actually look forward to eating. So now you have a quick dinner you don’t have to think twice about. One down, 364 to go.
Sweet Grape Tomato Pasta
- 6 tablespoons good olive oil, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 8 garlic cloves, minced. I just grab a handful.
- 1 anchovy filet
- 1/4-3/4 red pepper flakes
- 3 pints sweet grape tomatoes, washed and any stems discarded
- 1 large handful fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried
- 1 pound whole wheat spaghetti or pasta shape of your choice
- parmesan cheese to garnish, can’t have too much cheese!
- On a back burner, place a large pot of water on to boil.
- In a separate large saucepan with high sides, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and garlic and cook over medium heat 2-3 minutes stirring all the while.
- Place the anchovy filet on a wooden cutting board and mash into a paste with the side of a dinner knife. Takes 2 seconds. Scrape the mashed filet into the olive oil and stir well.
- Add red pepper flakes and tomatoes to the saucepan and stir so all the tomatoes are covered with the olive oil mixture. Cover and let simmer while the pot of water boils.
- Add spaghetti to heavily salted, boiling water and cook for 8 minutes of until al dente.
- By hand, rip basil leaves into pieces over the saucepan and stir into tomato sauce. With the back of the mixing spoon, break open tomatoes.
- Drain all but 1 cup pasta water. Pour pasta into tomato sauce and gently mix pasta to cover with sauce.
- Taste for salt and pepper.
- Plate spaghetti. Grate parmesan cheese over each serving and serve.