November 12, 2022
This is an easy recipe for multiple reasons - preparation isn't particularly labor-intensive, it comes together pretty quickly, and it freezes really well for when future you doesn't feel like cooking. And it's a very tasty way to eat a lot of vegetables! I use canned diced tomatoes instead of tomato sauce because I feel like it's a little less heavyhanded than full tomato sauce (but you can puree it into tomato sauce if you'd rather avoid the texture).
There's a lot of customization here, so you can freely omit or add vegetables to your taste. I like to throw a little cheese in, but you can skip it, and the butter can be replaced with vegan butter or olive oil. (I use vegan butter myself.) The cream/milk can be substituted with dairy-free alternatives or omitted, though I recommend using it in some form to make the sauce creamier. See the notes for other ideas and substitutions.
Final warning: there are a lot of imprecise "measurements" here because I'm not a measurer when I make sauce. This might scare you if you've never gone rogue in the kitchen before. Just keep trying the sauce until you're happy and I promise it'll all turn out fine.
1/2 pound of pasta (any will do, use your favorite)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion (half is fine)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cups baby spinach (or regular spinach, chopped)
1/2 cup peas
Fresh basil, chopped or torn
1 tablespoon butter
Splash of cream or milk (optional)
Parmesan cheese, to taste (optional)
Any spices you want (optional)
1. Boil water and cook pasta according to package directions. Once pasta is done, drain and set aside.
2. Heat oil on medium heat in a saucepan, then add garlic and onions and cook until onions are transparent (about 3-4 minutes).
3. Add tomato paste and cook while stirring until it breaks down.
4. Add the canned tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes or until softened. If you're using spices (not salt and pepper), add them here.
5. Add the spinach and cook until it just begins to wilt (this will only take a few minutes), then add the pasta, basil, and peas. Mix to combine the pasta with everything else, and to warm the peas in the sauce if they're frozen.
6. Reduce the heat to medium low. Add the butter, cream, and cheese (if using) and stir until the butter is melted and everything is combined. Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
7. Serve and top with more cheese if desired. Let cool to room temperature before freezing.
On meat: You can eat this with basically any meat you'd like: rotisserie chicken, chicken nuggets, pork chops, meatballs, etc., or vegetarian meat alternatives. I don't usually add meat, but if I do, I like (vegetarian) Italian sausage.
On tomatoes: The canned tomatoes can be replaced with fresh tomatoes or tomato sauce. If using fresh tomatoes, I recommend using halved or quartered cherry tomatoes. Cook them until they burst. If you use tomato sauce, use only half the can and omit the tomato paste. The sauce can be allowed to cool and put into a blender after step 4 if you don't want the texture of the onions.
On vegetables: I like to prepare broccoli, brussels sprouts, or asparagus to eat on the side. The onion can be substituted with 2-3 shallots, which are slightly milder than onions. Kale can be substituted for or added to the spinach. Other vegetables to try out include carrots, zucchini, eggplant, olives, yellow squash, mushrooms, cauliflower, peppers... really anything you think would go well with the tomatoes (which is a lot of things).
On herbs and spices: I don't add spices because I like the flavor of the tomatoes and everything as-is, but suggestions include chili powder, cajun spice mix, italian seasoning mix, garam masala, or even curry powder. You can also mix in hot sauce if you're into that. The basil is optional or you can use it dried instead of fresh, but if you have access to fresh basil, I think it really adds a lot to it. You can also add other herbs (cilantro, dill, oregano, etc) according to your preferences.