The rains seem to be on their way in full glory and as the weather makes us lazier (your boss knows you have been snoozing more often than not, even if you don’t admit it!), it also proportionally increases our craving for bowls and bowls of comfort food. However for most of us, comfort food equals junk food – bhajias, samosas, vada pav, well this list is potentially endless and we are all guilty to it (Damn you delicious junk food)! I like Italian food, not the cooking as much – I am lazy to the core but I think my love for food is greater than my laziness and this spaghetti recipe made with fresh seasonal vegetables, in a simple tomato and garlic sauce is my go to bowl of comfort food on a lazy, rainy afternoon.
There are two parts to this recipe: The making of the epic and beautiful sauce and the cooking of the vegetables and the spaghetti. So, let’s break this down.
In Italian cooking, the pasta is the hero of the dish, and is generally served with garnishes and sauces which compliment the pasta. However, for us Indians, most of us want more spices, more oregano and more cheese! Thus, balancing the flavours on the sauce well is important.
I have used broccoli, mushrooms and capsicums but you can very well add corn, beans (make sure you cook it well so it is tender), bell peppers etc. The more the vegetables, the healthier is this spaghetti dish! (yes, the healthy bit creeps in )
For the Sauce:
- 6 medium tomatoes: Blanched and whizzed in the mixer to form a slightly coarse paste
- 1 cup water
- Ketchup: 2 Tablespoons (Optional)
- Dry Herbs: Oregano, Basil, Thyme, Sage (Italian Seasoning) Half a Teaspoon
- Garlic Pods: 6 Fat Ones or 8 Medium Ones (Add more if you like the taste of garlic) Slightly Crushed
- Oil: 1 Tablespoon
For the Pasta:
- Spaghetti: One Packet (I used Blue Bird): 250 grams
- Mushrooms: 400 Grams (Quartered if big, Halved if medium)
- Capsicum: 1 Large (Finely Diced)
- Broccoli: 150 grams (Separate the florets and cut into smaller portions)
- Broccoli Stem: Whatever Remains, blended in a mixer to a fine paste
- Italian Seasoning: Half Teaspoon (But according to taste)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: 1 Tablespoon (Since I am a snob! Optional, though)
- 1 Table spoon Oil
- Chilly Flakes: To Taste (I added about 1 teaspoon)
- Cheese: 50 grams of hard cheese (Parmesan if you have it, else regular Cheddar works)
- Salt and Pepper: To Taste
Alright, now that we have that long shopping list ready, let’s rock and roll.
- In a large pan, put the oil and immediately put the garlic with the oil (This allows the oil to really infuse with the garlic and you get a really good flavour on your sauce)
- Once the oil is hot, add in the blanched tomatoes and stir to ensure it doesn’t burn
- Once most of the liquid in the sauce is dry, add the herbs and salt and pepper to taste (Once you add salt, it will release more moisture from the tomatoes. Don’t worry and keep stirring)
- Add a little water if you feel the sauce is becoming too dry, we need it to be enough to nicely coat the pasta but not as much to feel like you are having noodle soup
- Once you have achieved the right consistency, it’s done. Keep aside while you tackle the vegetables and the spaghetti
- Heat another pan, and once the pan is hot, put in the oil and the broccoli stem and fry till it no longer smells like raw broccoli (put your nose to good use peeps)
- Next, add in the vegetables and cook till the vegetables are soft (Usually about 7-8 minutes)
- Season using salt, pepper, chilly flakes and the herbs (The mushrooms are going to release a lot of water once you add the salt and pepper)
- Keep stirring till all the liquid has dried and the vegetables are tender
- Pour your sauce into your vegetables (or vice versa), and put the pan back on low heat, stirring occasionally till the sauce is gently bubbling (Also, taste and add more salt, pepper, chilly flakes and herbs at this point)
- Cook as per packet directions
- Once it is al dente, (Yes, I’m a food snob. I know.) strain and mix it with the extra virgin olive oil (This is optional, but it tends to add bags of flavour)
- Toss in a pinch of salt and pepper and the spaghetti is done (Avoid using salt here if you are using cheese – The saltiness of the cheese is enough to power you through to the finish line)
Once all that is done, here comes the fun part. The big pan which is simmering away with your sauce and vegetables – Put all the pasta into it, and stir for exactly one minute (fine, take two!) and take it off the heat. Taste again, add more salt and pepper if needed. And done! Ta daa! (Give yourself a pat on the back)
While serving, plate up and then grate some cheese over your pasta. (I didn’t and it still tasted quite good) and now, dig in!
So, when do you make this?
- On days when your love for food battles through your laziness
- When you don’t mind putting in a bit of effort in the kitchen (The prep takes time. Masterchef never tells you that cutting veggies and waiting for one liter of water to boil can take forever if you are hungry!)
- Giving mom some time off from the kitchen (Did I mention that this pairs up fabulously with a chilled glass of wine *winning*)
- When you want to impress bae (There I have said it. In public. Amen.)
- When you want a fairly large bowl of comfort food, for a Saturday night to be spent in, watching movies and re-runs
- When you want to up that Italiano of yours?! Dolce Vita?
- It’s easy to make this a non-veg dish. Throw in some chopped sausages, salami and some crispy fried bacon rashers (I know you guys are smiling)
- You can add more vegetables as you want – This comfort food keeps getting healthier and healthier
- Taste and taste often – Season well
- It tastes good without cheese (I swear!)
Think this. Saturday. Me Time. Big bowl of spaghetti. Random Movie in the background. Wine.