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How To Make “Magic” Spaghetti

#foodie-all – by Ellen Britt. Hey y’all…it’s Ellen, your resident foodie and the Atlanta Hometown Ambassador back again with more foodie talk!

One of the easiest dishes you can make for supper is a steaming bowl of pasta with sauce. Everybody loves pasta, as it’s not only tasty but it’s quick to make and very economical

I stumbled across a magical technique that I want to share with you about how to make this simple dish even more flavorful. This is entirely plant based and it’s so tasty you will never miss the meat and it’s so flavorful you don’t even need cheese, but of course you can add it if you want.

The trick to this is to use a good quality extra virgin olive oil or EVO as it’s called, the kind that smells so good when you open the bottle you might be tempted to take a swig! Just kidding, but fresh good quality olive oil has a fragrant “grassy” smell that to me is better than the most expensive or exotic essential oil. I call it my kitchen therapy!

Measure out three tablespoons of your oil into a large pot. I like to use my enameled dutch oven for cooking this dish, as it’s large enough and gives me plenty of room to work.

Then heat the olive oil so it’s nice and warm, but not hot enough to actually cook anything yet. I put my gas burner on medium high till the oil is warm and then turn it down to the lowest setting. Into the warm oil place a teaspoon of red pepper flakes and two teaspoons of dried basil. Take a fork and stir the pepper flakes and the basil into the oil so everything is coated and then leave it for at least twenty minutes or longer if you want. The oil will absorb the flavors of the pepper flakes and the basil which is exactly what you want.

Once you have the oil infused with the basil and pepper, then put up a pot of water to boil to cook your pasta. I like to use a sturdy pasta such as Barilla’s Protein Plus brand spaghetti that’s 100 percent plant based, unlike some other pastas which use egg whites to boost their protein content and as a binder.

Cook the spaghetti for 7 to 9 minutes so it’s ‘al dente’ which is Italian for ‘to the tooth’ meaning it’s done but still firm and not mushy. When you place the cooked pasta in the sauce a bit later it will continue cooking a bit more. Be careful not to get it too underdone though as you don’t want undercooked pasta. I use an entire 14.5 ounce package for this recipe. The leftovers reheat beautifully and keep in the fridge for a few days.

While the pasta is cooking, open a 16 ounce can of tomato paste. Not the fancy garlic and herb flavored kind, just plain old tomato paste. Then turn up the heat under your infused oil and place the tomato paste into the pot, “frying” it to develop more flavor. Careful that you don’t burn it though! While you are at it, add one teaspoon sea salt to the pastes and fold it in with a spoon.

When the pasta is done, reserve a couple of cups of the starchy cooking liquid then drain your pasta in a colander and set the colander back over the cooking pot for a minute while you finish the sauce. 

Starting with a half cup of the pasta water, stir the water into the tomato paste and infused oil until everything is well combined and glossy. Then add more water and continue stirring. I usually end up adding at least a cup or a cup and a half of water to make my sauce and you can experiment depending on how thick you like it.

Now for the magic…dump the cooked hot pasta into the pot with the sauce and with a pair of kitchen tongs, toss the pasta in the sauce until it’s well coated and the sauce is evenly distributed. The pasta will absorb the sauce so it’s “in” the pasta and not on it. 

Once everything is well mixed, dish out servings into bowls and enjoy! I will go so far as to wager that you’ll never make spaghetti any other way once you have tasted this. Let’s eat y’all…!