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.
Pure Veggie Sauce Recipe
Pure Veggie Sauce (sauces 1 pound of dry pasta)
This recipe may be the ultimate example of how pasta sauce can be made out of most anything. Cook any good, fresh vegetable until it's soft, mash it up, and, once it's doctored with nuts and cheese, you'll have a rich, silky pool for your pasta to dive into.
- ½ cup butter or extra-virgin olive oil
- 1½–1¾ lbs vegetable of choice (cauliflower, squash, eggplant, or carrots work great), cut into 1-inch pieces
- Salt and pepper
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- Fresh herbs (basil, rosemary, or thyme work great), chopped
- 1½ cups water or stock (vegetableor chicken), plus more as needed
- Cheese, grated
- Nuts, toasted
Place a wide, deep pan over medium-high heat with the butter or oil. When the butter is foaming or the oil shimmers, add the vegetables, spread them out, season generously with salt and pepper, and don't move them; let them sear. How much to brown is up to you – the browner they are, the more complex and caramelized the flavor; less brown, the cleaner and purer. Check the color by lifting a piece every few seconds. When you're ready, add the onion, garlic, and herbs, and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent.
Add the water or stock and a couple generous pinches of salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat to medium-low and cover the pan. Simmer until vegetables break easily with a spoon, 20–30 minutes. (Add more liquid if the pan gets dry as they cook.) Blast them in a blender, food processor, or with a hand blender until you have a smooth puree, looser than mashed potatoes but not soupy. (Some vegetables, like zucchini or eggplant, will just fall apart by themselves.) If it's too wet, cook it a little more in the pan; too thick, thin with liquid.
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Taste, add salt and pepper to your liking, and toss with pasta. Top with plenty of grated cheese, toasted nuts, maybe some more chopped herbs, and serve.