Just as there are five basic plots in literature*, I believe there are five basic pasta sauces. They are garlic and oil, butter, white sauce, vegetable sauce and tomato sauce. But for each of these sauces, there are endless variations. Once you know how to make these five recipes — and they are all very simple — you can pretty much have a different pasta dish every night.
Last night’s pasta was a tomato sauce variation with fresh spinach. It was hearty but not too heavy, and very colorful — definitely a crowd pleaser (if my husband and I count as the crowd). I adapted the recipe from Marcella Cucina, which is a treasure trove of pasta sauce variations.
By the way, whenever I take the trouble to boil a big pot of water for pasta, I always make two batches. The second batch goes into the fridge to have on hand for baby snacks, pasta salads or to reheat gently with some butter, lemon and herbs.
Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes
Serves: 2-3 depending on appetite
Time to make: ~30 minutes
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- ½ sm. onion, diced small
- 2 slices bacon, minced
- 2 sm. carrots, peeled and diced small
- 5 oz. (more or less) fresh spinach, washed and chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes with the liquid
- ½ lb. fettuccine or similar pasta
- grated Parmesan for garnish
Start the water heating for the pasta. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium high. Add the onion and cook about 5 minutes, until golden. Add the bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until crisped. Add the carrots and cook another couple of minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium. Add the spinach and turn to coat all the leaves, letting the leaves wilt somewhat. Season to taste.
Pour in the tomatoes. Let simmer while the pasta cooks, reducing the heat as necessary. Boil the pasta to the desired doneness. Drain and toss the pasta with the sauce in the warm pan. Serve and garnish with grated Parmesan.
*The five plots are man vs. man, man vs. woman, man vs. nature, man vs. the unknown and man vs. himself. For extra credit, discuss how each of these plots corresponds to one of the five basic pasta sauces.