Pasta pairs well with almost anything, which is one of the reasons it's such an easy dish to make – just empty the contents of your fridge into a pan, and you've got "sauce." But having a few staple recipes to play with can help you create a next-level meal. Here are three that'll deliver big flavor every time.
Lemon-Garlic Base Recipe
Lemon-Garlic Base (sauces 1 pound of dry pasta)
This recipe works well with almost any kind of seafood, from shrimp to clams and squid or a simple can of good tuna, but it's also great with chicken, pork, or even mushrooms. And if you're nervous about cooking seafood, don't sweat it: The chewy texture of good pasta can give you cover if you overcook it a little.
- ½ cup butter or olive oil (or a split of both), plus an extra 3 tbsp butter to finish
- 6 tbsp chopped garlic (about 12 cloves)
- 2 tbsp capers
- 1 lb main ingredient of your choice (fish, shrimp, chicken, etc.), cut into ½-inch pieces
- (2 lbs if using clams or mussels)
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 lemon, juiced
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
- Salt and pepper
Place a deep sauté pan over medium heat with the butter or oil and garlic. When it sizzles, give it a stir and a pinch of salt. Add the capers.
When the garlic is lightly browned, add the main ingredient and season with salt. (If you're using clams or mussels, skip the salt, add the wine now, cover, and cook until they just open up, 2 minutes or so.) When the main ingredient turns opaque, add the wine and let it bubble down until there's just enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pan. Take pan off heat.
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When your pasta is cooked, put the pan back over medium heat and add some lemon juice (you probably won't use it all), then stir in the pasta and parsley. If it looks dry, add some pasta cooking water to moisten. Taste, and add pepper and enough salt to make it delicious. Finish by stirring in remaining butter, and serve right away.