Around the holidays when life gets crazy, sometimes simple is best. A quick meal that takes minutes to throw together can work wonders to revive a flagging spirit.
But that doesn't mean that you have to end up settling for fast food. Something as simple as pasta and tomato sauce can come together to make a hearty, satisfying dinner. Garlic bread and salad turn it into a meal fit for company.
The beauty of it is that it does not take long to prepare. And it can feed a large crowd as well as one or two, for little extra effort. And as long as you have a package of dried pasta, a can or jar of tomatoes, and some quality parmigiana Reggiano on hand you can have dinner on the table in less than an hour. And while the fresh basil I happened to have on hand made this quite delicious (and quite Christmas-y as well), you can have an equally delicious sauce without fresh herbs.
I have posted my basic tomato sauce before, but to save you the trouble of clicking through the link here is a brief recap:
Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil. At the same time, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add 4 to 5 chopped or sliced cloves garlic and cook until it turns golden. Add a can or jar of any kind of tomatoes - whole, diced, crushed, or pureed. Add a teaspoon of dried thyme and half a teaspoon of dried basil (or adjust to taste). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let simmer for about 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened to the desired consistency.
Add salt to the boiling water in the stockpot and cook the pasta a minute or two less than the time given on the package directions. Reserve a cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta and add it to the tomato sauce and cook for another minute or two, until the pasta is al dente and the sauce is absorbed. Add pasta water if necessary. Remove from the heat and add one fourth of a cup of grated parmagiana Regiano cheese and any fresh herbs you wish to use. Serve immediately with extra grated cheese on the side.