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Awesome DIY Sauces For Pasta- Part I

Two weeks ago when I wrote about great week day dinners, I deliberately glossed over probably the most popular, easy DIY meal choice, pasta, because with its many forms and acceptance of an infinite variety of sauces it’s worthy of its own discussion. So, I’m going to write two articles, this week and next concentrating on a number of easy sauces, over 30 of them in fact, too many recipes for one posting.

Commercially, two types of pasta are available, fresh and dried. Originally all pasta was home made, and a couple of decades ago pasta machines were all the rage. Properly made fresh pasta can be delicious, but it can also be heavy, sticky and tend to fall apart. Even when I lived in Italy, years ago, dried was the preferred choice of most cooks because it’s consistent in quality and easily controlled in cooking to be rendered al dente.

Selection of the shape should be determined by the sauce being served. The rule of thumb is that longer strands carry smooth, more fluid sauces well as they entwine on the fork. Chunky sauces are best served with shaped pasta, allowing the different morsels to be trapped in the indentations; the more robust the sauce, the bigger the pasta shape needed. Large flat noodles are preferred for bedding ample pieces of the entrée, slices of meat or whole pieces of seafood. They are also excellent for layering baked dishes.

However choice of pasta is purely personal. It’s important to pair a sauce with the pasta that will best deliver it, but it’s equally important to have the pasta cooked correctly Over cooked pasta becomes soft and unable to carry the sauce. Do pay attention to the package directions. They vary with the texture and shape of the pasta. Here’s a tip, most chefs in Italy cook pasta in broth, even if only envelope of bouillon granules in the water, it gives the dish extra flavor. Here’s another, don’t add oil to the water. It may stop the pasta from sticking together, but it also prevents the sauce from adhering to the pasta.

Most of the sauces I include below are meatless, but many will accept the addition of meat. Again the decision is personal, but my recommendation, especially for the sauces with fresh produce, would be cooked ham or poultry, possibly seafood. Some of the sauces may even be used to top slices of leftover roast and bedded on pasta for an easy entrée. I would avoid adding ground meat unless indicated in the recipe because it will not only change the texture of the sauce, but can be difficult to incorporate into the cooking process and may lead to unpleasant results.

All recipes serve 4.

Tomato, Basil and Feta:
1 clove garlic – split
1 Tbs. oil
8 peeled seeded and chopped plumb tomatoes, canned is fine, OR (1/2) 28oz can diced
1/3 cup dry vermouth
Salt and pepper and a pinch of cayenne – optional
2 Tbs. chopped fresh basil OR 1 Tbs. dried
6 oz. crumbled feta cheese
Sauté garlic in oil for 1 min. Add tomatoes and wine and sauté over high heat until alcohol has evaporated. Season to taste, toss in basil and cook 20 sec. Remove garlic, add pasta and heat through and serve with cheese on top.

Fast Fresh Tomato Sauce:
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic – minced
2 Tbs. oil
1dried chili pepper
1 roasted red pepper – chopped—canned is fine
12 plum tomatoes, skinned, seeded and coarsely chopped
Tbs. Tomato paste
1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs of choice
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook onion, garlic and chili in oil until onion is soft. Add tomatoes, red pepper and cook until tomatoes release their juice. Add tomato paste and herbs and seasonings. Cook 1 min. Remove chili and toss with pasta.

Variation: Ginger Sauce; Omit chili, red pepper and cayenne. Sauté 2Tbs. chopped fresh ginger root with the onion. Add a pinch of sugar with the salt and pepper. Substitute 2 Tbs. chopped fresh coriander for the herbs. Toss with pasta and serve.

Tomato Sauce with Tequila and Cream:
2 cloves garlic minced
3 Tbs. oil
½ tsp. crushed pepper
12 skinned, seeded plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped – canned is fine
½ cup heavy cream
2 Tbs. tequila
Salt and pepper

Sauté garlic in the oil until aromatic, stir in pepper and add tomatoes and cook until fresh ones release their juice or the juice from the canned ones reduces. Add cream and stir until sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat and stir in tequila. Season with salt and pepper, toss with pasta and serve.

Creamy Tomato Sauce with Herbs:
2 Tbs. minced onions
2 Tbs. oil
½ cup chopped parsley
1 Tbs. lemon zest
Pinch each dried thyme, marjoram, basil
½ cup heavy cream
12 skinned, seeded coarsely chopped tomatoes
Salt and pepper
Cook onion in oil until softened. Add parsley, zest and dried herbs. Cook 1 min. until blended, add tomatoes and cook until they release their juice Add cream and simmer for about 1 min. until sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper, toss with pasta and serve.

Feta and Artichoke Sauce:
12 oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts
¼ lb. crumbled feta
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 Tbs. grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper
Mix artichokes and feta in a bowl and set aside for at least 1 hr. Toss with hot pasta adding parsley and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Artichoke and Mushroom Sauce:
12 oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic minced
2 tsp. oil
8 button mushrooms sliced
2 Tbs. chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
Sauté the garlic in the oil. Add mushrooms and cook until they release their juice; add artichokes and parsley and heat through. Season with salt and pepper and toss with pasta.

Mushroom Persillade
1 medium onion minced
2 cloves garlic minced
3 Tbs. oil
1 lb. button mushrooms diced
1 cup dry white wine
1 tsp. tomato paste
½ cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper.
Sauté the onion and garlic in the oil until softened. Add the mushroom and cook until they release their juice, about 8 min. Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and cook until liquid is reduced by half. Stir in the tomato paste and parsley, cook 1 min. Toss with pasta.

Sausage and Mushroom Sauce:
1lb. any sausage of choice
¼ cup chopped onion
2cloves garlic minced
8 sliced mushrooms
½ cup red wine
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
Dried basil and oregano to taste
Salt and pepper
Sauté sausage until no longer pink, add onion and cook until meat begins to brown. Add mushrooms and sauté until they soften; add wine and stir well to incorporate. Add tomatoes and seasonings and simmer to meld flavors and reduce to thicken slightly. Toss with pasta, serve hot with grated cheese.

Green Parsley Pasta:
2 shallots minced
1 clove garlic minced
¼ cup oil
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper
Sauté shallots and garlic in oil over low heat until soft. Add parsley and heat through. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with pasta once then toss again with Parmesan.

Cheese and Cream Sauce:
2 cups heavy cream or half and half
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper
Bring cream to a boil and stirring constantly cook until it reduces by 1/3rd and thickens. Add the cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss with pasta and garnish with chopped parsley.
Note: Only heavy cream and half and half can be boiled without curdling

Scallop and Herbed-Cheese Sauce:
1 Tbs. onion chopped
1cup white wine
1Tbs. lemon juice
¾ lb. bay scallops
4 oz. herbed cream cheese
Salt and pepper
2 tsp. parsley
Sauté onion in the oil until soft. Add wine and lemon juice. Reduce by half. Add scallops and poach until firm about1 min. Remove from heat and stir in cheese until smooth, season with salt and pepper, then add parsley. Toss with pasta.

Low Fat- Low Sodium Pesto”
2 cups chopped basil leaves
1 clove garlic minced
3 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Blend everything until smooth. Toss with pasta.

Shrimp Cucumber and Dill Sauce
1 medium cucumber peeled seeded and chopped
1 tsp. salt
4 tbs. butter
1 bunch of scallions-whit parts only chopped
1 clove garlic chopped
1 cup white wine
1 Tbs. chopped dill
1 cup half and half
1 lb. raw shelled and cleaned shrimp
Sprinkle salt over cucumber in a bowl and allow to sit for 20 min. Rinse well and drain then chill. Sauté scallions and garlic in butter until soft, add wine and reduce by half, add shrimp and dill. Cook until shrimp are pink, add cream and simmer to reduce and thicken slightly, add reserved cucumber just to heat through and season with salt and pepper if needed. Serve over pasta.

Variation; smoked Salmon. Use above ingredients but substitute 1/4lb. julienned smoked salmon for the shrimp. Follow directions as above but add the salmon with the reserved cucumber at the end.

White Clam Sauce
1 small onion chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
2 Tbs. oil
1 cup white wine
2 tsp. dill
1 lemon –juiced
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 Tbs. butter
2 doz. Littleneck clams*
Sauté the garlic and onion in the oil until softened, add the wine lemon and ill. Bring to a boil, add the clams, Simmer 5 min. to open (discard any that don’t) Remove shells, stir in parsley and butter. Toss with pasta.
*A 10 oz. can of whole baby clams can be substituted for the fresh ones. Drain juice and add it to the pot with the wine. Allow to reduce slightly and add the clams with the parsley, just heat through.

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