So last night I was on my tod and was therefore free to make pasta (or anything else) for dinner without fear of complaint or criticism. (Although there wasn’t much else besides pasta in the house.)
By Thursday in our house, the perishables are sometimes getting a little low, and the few survivors are usually getting soft and starting to develop age spots. It was kind of hot and I’d walked the few miles home from work (Dave had the car) and I was tired and would have liked something crisp and fresh-tasting, preferably not made by me, but sometimes you need to suck it up and go with your available resources, which in my case was pasta and some kind of improvised sauce. (Plus yesterday was the end of a pay cycle, so there would be no takeout for me. Tonight, though, is another matter.)
Anyway. The pasta sauce? Turned out kind of amazing. (Maybe the amazingness was mostly because it was based on what I had around.) I had a teeny weeny onion and a can of petite cut diced tomatoes and garlic, which is usually a good starting point for a tomato-based pasta sauce. I also had a wrinkly bell pepper, some jalapenos, a nectarine, some heavy cream from about a month ago, a happy basil plant and butter. Oh, and some red wine. Heh.
While waiting for the water to boil, I chopped all of the above ingredients and sautéed them in their proper order (which really depends on what results you are looking for.) I wanted the onions and garlic to meld seamlessly into the sauce rather than striking individual notes of their own, I thought the sweetness of the bell pepper would complement the nectarine – not really a traditional ingredient – so I put the pepper in early on. And a good glug of wine followed the peppers. (In a different kind of sauce, with fresh tomatoes and firm, crisp peppers, I would probably have added the pepper close to the end, so it retained its crunch, and barely cooked the tomatoes at all, just let the heat of the cooked pasta warm them through. Or I might have cooked the garlic at a slightly higher heat, so it turned medium-brown and nutty-tasting.)
With the onions, garlic and pepper all taken care off, I added the other stuff: the jalapeno, the nectarine (I didn’t bother to skin it), and the canned chopped tomatoes. Then I put the pasta in and let that cook while the sauce reduced a bit. Once the pasta was done (I should have stopped it just before doneness so it could continue cooking and absorb some sauce, but I was drinking the red wine as well as cooking it, so I didn’t think of it and just cooked the pasta to al dente).
Anyway, when the pasta was done I drained it, turned the heat off the sauce, and added some heavy cream and a good handful of chiffoned basil o the sauce and stirred that up.
Mixed everything together in the pot the pasta had cooked in and oh my goodness. Sometimes musicians talk about sound being “fat”, having extra depth and oomph and complexity. The nectarine added sweetness and fragrance to the sauce without really being noticeably present on its own, or being cloyingly sweet, a little like the way adding some good aged balsamic vinegar to your tomato sauce works. The cream smoothed everything out, the jalapeno provided welcome bite and the basil was like a counterpoint melody, harmonizing with the rest but definitely going off and doing its own thing. The other best part? 40 minutes from start to plate, not that you'd know it from my excessive verbiage.
I’d planned to make enough for me, enough for Dave when he got in PLUS leftovers for our lunches today, but I was greedy and there ended up only being enough for a gluttonous solo dinner and lunches. (My jeans are a little tight, today.)
I will definitely be playing around with fruit in pasta sauces more in future. Seeing as I make pasta with some variant of tomato sauce all the time, it’s nice to have found another dimension to play around in. Quantities and suggestions below.
1 lb pasta (I used ziti with lines; anything not too small would do.)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can (12 z) tomatoes
1 small onion (although you could use more), diced
2 fat cloves garlic, minced
½ c. heavy cream (doesn’t have to be heavy, or even present.)
½ c. red wine (I think … maybe ¾ c.)
1 jalapeno (adjust this according to your preference for heat and the hotness of your peppers. You could use ½ tsp. of flakes, too.)
1 tbl. butter (olive oil would be fine)
1 small overripe nectarine (you could use peach or apricot, too. Maybe even pitted cherries.)
1 large handful of basil, sliced fine.
1 sweet bell pepper, chopped
No photos because this is not a very special-looking dish.