Friday, December 18, 2009

Umami and elevating pantry pasta

I love figuring out meals of random things in the pantry. I haven't been to the grocery store because we have all the leftovers from the party. But we're tired of them. And, we'll be dining out all weekend (it's G's birthday), so double the reason to just eat what's in the cupboards and fridge.

I was dying for some spaghetti and meatballs, inspired by the cover of the latest Bon Appetit, where there's a large, hearty dish full of my favorite childhood comfort food!  But the only things tomato-related in our house were a can of diced tomatos and tomato soup. That was good enough!!! I knew I could do better than any jarred sauce with these items. All I needed to do was add umami to it to give it the slow cooked, savory flavor.

 This is what I did:

Sauteed aromatics (celery, garlic, and onion).

Sprinkled in a tablespoon each of dried basil and a savory seasoning (any earthy seasoning will do)

Added the can of diced tomatoes

After it cooked down for five minutes, I added a bit of beef stock to give it richness
We didn't have any tomato paste, so I used condensed tomato soup, which was a bit sweet...

...I cut the sweetness with Maggi, a really great Umami-packed liquid seasoning, akin to soy sauce, but better. It really helped to make it savory and hearty tasting.
To bind the sauce a bit, I added some flour, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.
Finally, a bit of wine. It gives it another dimension of flavor. About 1/4 cup of good wine (that you'd drink)

We actually had some pre-made gorgonzola and spinach meatballs! I first baked them, then added them to the sauce to simmer.
Meanwhile, I tossed a simple salad with olive oil and vinegar
I added hot pepper flakes to my plate, as a nod to "Puttanesca," the original pantry pasta!
If I do say so myself, this was SUCH a lusty meal. There's something about the hearty, simmered, tomato sauce with all the umami flavor which drenched the creamy tendrils of angel hair....

We had it with this equally mmm, mmm screw top Shiraz. It's 93-point rated Schild Estates Barossa Shiraz, 2005. I highly recommend it. It's not expensive and tastes indulgent in an earthy way (kind of like the pasta).
To cleanse our palates, we topped the green salad with a bit of pomello and avocado. YUMMMMM.

Since this was a pantry meal, you wouldn't use a recipe (and wouldn't necessarily go shopping for canned tomato soup to make spaghetti and meatballs). Improvisation is the best way to cook. So I won't give my own recipe here. The idea is to make the most of whatever you have on hand. The guidance on this is to add a good umami flavor base to whatever you're cooking. It can turn simple and random things in your cupboard into great meals. For more on umami, go here.

But if you really, really need one, here's Bon App├ętit's Spaghetti and Meatballs All'Amatriciana:
Click on each page to print recipe

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