Simple Yet Tasty Spaghetti Sauce

San Marzano Tomatoesa variety of plum tomatoes, are considered by many chefs to be the best paste tomatoes in the world. (Wikipedia)

San Marzano tomato

San Marzano tomato

The key to a delicious spaghetti sauce is keeping it simple and using the correct type of tomatoes.  I’ve tried different types of tomatoes but the best tomatoes I recommend are san marzano tomatoes.  These types of tomatoes have thinner skins versus other tomatoes with thicker flesh and fewer seeds.  On it’s own these tomatoes have a stronger taste, sweeter and less acidic, perfect basis for a spaghetti sauce.

Ingredients

2 thin slices of pancetta (if you want a vegetarian version feel free to omit this as it will still be tasty)
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 can of San Marzano tomatoes
fresh parmesean
fresh mozzarella
fresh basil leaves

Chop the pancetta into small pieces and fry over medium to high heat.  While it is cooking, mince the garlic.  Add it to the pan without draining any of the fat.  If you feel there is too much fat or want a healthier version by all means, drain the fat prior to adding the garlic or skip completely as it will still taste good.  Stir the mixture approximately 2-3 minutes.  Slowly add the San Marzano tomatoes including the liquid being careful not to splatter yourself.  Mash the tomatoes in the pan and cook the sauce over medium to high heat until the sauce is reduced by two thirds – you want to aim for a dry sauce.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Cook spaghetti noodles according to the package (unless you feel motivated to make fresh pasta) and toss with the sauce.  Plate the spaghetti, sprinkle shredded Parmesan over the dish and slices of fresh mozzarella.  Add torn basil leaves for garnish.  If you want to kick it up a notch, drizzle a bit of basil oil over the dish and enjoy.

Mushroom Risotto

risotto [riˈzôtō]: An Italian dish of rice cooked in stock with other ingredients. (Wikipedia)

Mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms (left) and Shiitake mushrooms (right)

Risotto is one of those side dishes that that is easy to make and is well worth the effort. The creaminess of the rice infused with mushrooms and parmesan cheese creates an earthy flavor that goes well with many cuts of meat. I like to mix up the types of mushrooms I use but usually try to include oyster mushrooms. I definitely recommend using Aborio rice which is easy to find in your local grocery store as it contains a high starch content, which is what makes the dish so creamy.

Mushroom Risotto

1 cup Arborio rice
1 small white onion finely chopped
olive oil
1/2 cup of white wine
1 carton chicken broth
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom Risotto

Heat the olive oil in a wok or medium sized sauce pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onions, sauteing it until it becomes translucent, approx. 3 minutes. Next add the rice and coat it with the oil until lightly toasted. Toasting the rice is important so the rice doesn’t absorb the liquid too quickly and become mushy. Pour in the white wine and let it simmer until it’s fully absorbed.  Add in one cup of chicken broth at a time, allowing the rice to almost absorb it before adding in another cup. At this point, I like to stir in the mushrooms. When the last cup of broth is almost absorbed, add in the cheese and stir.  Garnish with additional Parmesan cheese if desired.