Spaghetti may be a staple on your weekly or monthly menu, it was in my house growing up. I encourage you to try a few of these simple tweaks to elevate the basic spaghetti with tomato sauce into a distinctive and elegant supper.
Most grocery stores now offer a fresh pasta selection, and the difference in fresh versus dried is vast. Note that fresh pasta cooks far quicker than dried pasta, taking about 3 minutes from start to finish. Make sure everything else is ready for dinner before you drop the pasta in the boiling water.
1 tablespoon olive oil (I like California Olive Ranch evoo)
1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of Italian seasoning
2 sprigs of fresh basil
1 dried bay leaf
1 onion, chopped
1 small can of tomato sauce
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup white wine
4 ounces fresh burrata
2 ounces parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and black pepper
In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute onion until translucent (about 5 minutes), then add garlic, a pinch of Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes. If it is just Jim and me eating this, I will add as much as 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes which makes the sauce plenty spicy for us, but too hot for the kids.
After just a minute, pour over the white wine and let the ingredients bubble and simmer for another minute or two. Add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, stir in a bay leaf and one sprig of fresh basil (yes, throw in the short stem with several leaves intact, we will fish it out later), and turn down the heat. Let this simmer really low, stirring every now and then while you cook the pasta.
For an exceptional dinner, use fresh pasta! Boil a large amount of salted water. Break the pasta up with your fingers as you drop it in. Allow this to boil for just a few minutes and taste a noodle after only three minutes to check for doneness. Once cooked, transfer the noodles to the sauce, reserving the cooking water in case you need to add a little to the sauce.
Plate and serve
Fish out the sprig of basil and bay leaf, it has served its purpose to infuse the sauce. Twist and stir the fresh pasta into the sauce to coat all the noodles. Add the reserved cooking liquid a tablespoon at a time if needed. The starch from the pasta left in this reserved liquid helps the sauce to become glossy and cling to the pasta better. Two to three tablespoons are usually enough. Sprinkle everything with fresh parmesan shavings and divide among individual bowls.
The magic happens when you pinch pieces of soft burrata over the top of hot pasta. Chiffonade the remaining fresh basil and sprinkle over the top. Serve to those you love!