When it comes to cooking, I’m a firm believer that pasta is one of the greatest inventions in history. Think about it: When a picky kid won’t eat his dinner, what can you feed him? Macaroni and cheese. When you’re an amateur in the kitchen who’s cooking for a crowd, what foolproof dish can you prepare? Spaghetti. When you’re a poor college kid with two bucks for groceries, what can you buy? Ramen noodles. At the drop of a hat, pasta can be formal or casual, for kids or adults, a meal with class or a meal on the cheap. Yes, pasta is the great equalizer.
As young married folks, Jared and I were experts in the cooking-spaghetti-for-company domain. It’s super fast, super easy and somehow always comes off looking like a beautiful, homemade meal when paired with a great salad and bread. But after three years of relying on spaghetti as our fallback entertaining food of choice, we were ready to branch out.
This tomato basil capellini was inspired by an Ina Garten recipe we saw on her show, Barefoot Contessa, a while back. It has all the great qualities of spaghetti (fast, easy, inexpensive) with a few added benefits (fresh ingredients, more flavor, pretty presentation). Since trying out the capellini for the first time a few months ago, we’ve experimented with ingredients and measurements until settling on the recipe below. Follow it to a tee, or alter as you wish. I can tell you from experience that it’s hard to mess up. You’ve got to love a recipe like that, right?
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• fresh tomatoes, diced (I typically use six or seven Roma tomatoes, but you could vary the type and/or amount depending on your preference.)
• 8 to 10 fresh basil leaves, julienned
• 2 cloves garlic (or 1 teaspoon minced garlic)
• 1 teaspoon thyme
• 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (plus a bit more for salting pasta water)
• 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
• one box angle hair pasta
• fresh grated Parmesan cheese (for sprinkling over finished pasta)
Heat olive oil in pan over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until golden (about 30 seconds). Add basil, thyme, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper, and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, reduce heat to medium-low, and let simmer for 8 to 12 minutes.
In the meantime, cook pasta according to packaged instructions. When finished, drain pasta and return to pot. Pour hot tomato basil mixture over pasta, and toss to combine. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bon appetit!
This recipe takes about 20 minutes from start to finish, even for folks like me who clean as they go and chop at an unimpressive rate. So it’s fast and simple, not to mention easy on the eyes and yummy in the tummy.