Wednesday, June 1, 2011

More Pasta, Please!

Probably one of the foods I crave the most is pasta. It is comfort food at its finest. It is quick and easy to make, usually inexpensive, satisfying, and it makes great leftovers.

I'm sharing an old favorite (I tried this recipe for the first time over two years ago--it just took me forever to get a picture of it). It has an easy homemade pasta sauce made from three kinds of tomatoes.

The new discovery I made was for Spanish spaghetti. It uses bottled marinara sauce that is dressed up with all sorts of goodies. My two year old loved it (in fact, he loved both of these pasta recipes)! This made me happy because he is going through a super picky eating phase. He's funny because he's selective about being picky. There are very few foods that he doesn't like. But it's all in the timing. He doesn't like to have the same things too often and if he's not in the mood for something, there's no use trying to get him to eat it. It is maddening! So, it's always a nice break when he actually eats the dinner I prepared!

Oh, and might I add that both of these dinners are great pantry recipes. You can pretty much always have most (if not all) of the ingredients on hand. I love pantry recipes. I'll be doing another post dedicated purely to pantry recipes later!

So, boil some water and make some pasta for dinner tonight!

Spaghetti with Three-Tomato Sauce


Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped, oil reserved
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes
1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved


In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti until al dente according to the package diections. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water; return the pasta to the pot.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the canned tomatoes (with juice) and sun-dried tomatoes. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally and breaking up the canned tomatoes, until thick, about 15 minutes.

Add the cherry tomatoes; simmer until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add sauce to the pasta. Season with salt and pepper. Toss, adding pasta water as desired. Serve immediately.

Source: Martha Stewart Everyday Food: Great Food Fast cookbook (also found on the Everyday Food PBS TV show and the Martha Stewart website).

Notes: Kitchen shears are one of my best friends. I used the kitchen shears to cut up the sun-dried tomatoes while still in the jar and the whole peeled tomatoes while they were still in the can. It's just easier that way. You can control the size of the tomato pieces better that way than by breaking them up with a spoon.

Oh, and I used grape tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes because my grocery store didn't have any cherry tomatoes. Isn't that crazy? Are cherry tomatoes going out of style?

Also, the recipe says that it serves 4. If you have a side salad and perhaps some bread, a pound of pasta goes a lot farther and can serve 6-8, in my opinion.

Above: Here is an updated photo of this fantastic sauce, because I felt like the original picture I took didn't do it justice! This is one of the best meat sauces ever!

Above: The photo I originally took. Still tasty, but not as pretty of a picture as it should have been!

Spanish Spaghetti with Olives


8 ounces thin spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed saffron threads (optional)
8 ounces extra-lean ground beef
1 2/3 cups marinara sauce
1/2 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed olives
1/4 cup dry sherry, optional
1 tablespoon capers
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided


Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; saute 4 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; saute 1 minute. Stir in oregano, celery salt, red pepper, black pepper, and saffron, if desired. Crumble beef into pan; cook 5 minutes or until beef is browned, stirring to crumble. Stir in marinara sauce, olives, sherry, capers, and 3 tablespoons parsley. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes.

Add spaghetti to sauce mixture. Cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon parsley.

Nutrition information: (Serving size: about 1 3/4 cups) 445 calories, 12.1 g fat, 21 mg cholesterol, 72 mg calcium, 60.6 g carbohydrate, 832 mg sodium, 22.3 g protein, 5.4 g fiber, 5.2 mg iron.

Source: Cooking Light, December 2009

Notes: I chose to make this recipe because I had all of the ingredients in my pantry and freezer. I thought I had marinara sauce and didn't realize that the only bottled pasta sauce I had was Barilla's Green and Black Olive Pasta Sauce. So, I decided to save my canned green olives for another day. I thought that the olives would be too strong if I added the olives called for in the recipe in addition to the olives that were already in the pasta sauce.

I also made a full pound of pasta instead of 8 ounces (I mean, come on, who is going to do that?). Additionally, I used a full pound of ground beef.

I used linguine instead of spaghetti because I had just used the last of my spaghetti the week before.

I omitted the celery salt because I was rushed and couldn't find mine and because I don't always like the flavor of celery salt anyway. I also omitted the saffron because saffron is super pricey and I'm not going to break the bank for saffron on a recipe that already has plenty of great flavors going for it. I forgot to add the parsley (as I always do), but it was still fantastic.

Finally, rather than tossing the pasta with the sauce, I topped the pasta with the sauce. It was really yummy. Oh, and I would recommend using sweet onions (such as Vidalia or Texas Sweet Onions). The sweetness from the onions paired with the saltiness of the olives and capers was soooo good.

With my changes and additions, rather than serving 4, I would say that this recipe could serve 6-8.

I know it sounds like I made so many changes that it's not even the same recipe, but it is, I promise! And it was really yummy! You should try it!


  1. I am also a sucker for pasta. Yum yum. And olives! That is funny Pete likes olives and onions. What a silly guy!

  2. That looks really good. I'm amazed that Pete ate that. I'll never figure him out.

    I've never bought saffron, but I wonder how different it would taste.