After a long day at work, coming home to cook can sometimes seem like a dreadful thought. I want to prepare things quickly so I tend to speed up the process, which inevitably leads to problems. Failed homemade veggie burgers, overbaked quinoa thing, idiot-proof paella turned to mush: These are just a few of my disasters. Here are three recipes that haven't gone wrong for me yet. For two of the recipes, the sauce can be made during the time it takes to boil the pasta. The third, Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter, takes 45 minutes but it's the easiest of the three. I'll start with that one.
No technique in the kitchen? Create a huge mess when you cook? Forget about things while they're cooking and turn delicate things into carbon? Don't worry, this recipe is almost technique-free, and there's almost no mess, plus you only have to remember to give it a stir three times throughout the process. No surprise here, but butter does create magic. The original recipe calls for both ends of the onion to be trimmed, peeled, and cut lengthwise. I then slice it into thin strips because it works well with bites of rigatoni. It's up to you.
3 cups canned whole peeled tomatoes with their juice
1 medium sweet yellow onion
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 pound pasta
Add all of the ingredients except the pasta to a large Dutch oven over medium heat. When it starts to bubble, give it a good stir and lower the heat to a steady simmer. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. (It should be nice and thick at the end.) About 15 minutes before the sauce is done, start cooking your pasta according to the package directions.
SPAGHETTI ALLA "CARBONARA"
This is the most stripped-down version of carbonara you've probably ever seen. It's what I turn to when there's nothing left in the fridge. I've never made it with pancetta or bacon. I threw in some peas once and that was nice. A sprinkle of chopped flat-leaf parsley on top? Sounds good if you have it. All you really need is a couple of eggs, a pound of spaghetti, a couple cloves of garlic, and olive oil. Scrape off the mold from the Parmesan hidden in the back of the fridge—you'll need that too. It tastes better than it sounds.
1 pound pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs, beaten
Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the pasta. Five minutes before the pasta is cooked, add the oil to a deep heavy skillet or Dutch oven. Add the garlic and sauté for a few minutes.
Turn off the heat under the skillet. Drain the cooked pasta, reserving a half cup of the starchy water. Add the pasta to the skillet and toss with the garlic. Add half of the cheese and toss for 1 minute. Add the eggs and toss for 1 minute. Add the remaining cheese and toss again for about 2 minutes. Then add a bit of the reserved pasta water to loosen it up to the desired consistency (I usually add about 1/4 cup). Serve immediately.
HOW TO BUTCHER JAMIE OLIVER'S PUTTANESCA RECIPE
This was the first recipe I made from a TV program (The Naked Chef), back when you had to watch and write quickly because it didn't exist online. So I wrote it down and made it many times. Memorized it. Lost the paper. Kept making it as my memory faded, and now have ended up with this thing you see here. My favorite pasta sauce recipe, hands down!
1 pound spaghetti
1 (2-ounce) can anchovies, packed in olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon capers, including the brine
1 large jalapeño, large dice
1 pound tomatoes, extra-large dice
6 to 8 kalamata olives, sliced in half
Freshly grated black pepper
Start boiling the pasta. Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, pour in all of the oil from the anchovies and then add the anchovies, garlic, and capers. Cook for 1 minute.
Add the jalapeño and cook for 1 more minute.
Add the tomatoes and olives and cook for 3 more minutes.
Toss the sauce with the drained pasta, add some pepper and olive oil, and toss again. Serve.
Photos and styling by Chris Rochelle