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Standard Model of paste based sauces
the sauce to the sauce & 11 decent 'recipes'
More often than advisable, I’ll give in to a late night craving for pasta. There’s no time to stew tomatoes. I don’t have canned sauce on hand (why do I never buy them?). I need something saucy in the time it takes water to boil and pasta to cook. Over the years of carbo loading, I’ve made this “midnight pasta” and similar others enough times to believe that a paste based sauce is the quickest/easiest way to get a sauce.
Afaik there are two main ways of coming up with the paste: directly balancing/combining/mixing things that are already paste-like, or making a paste from a solid and a liquid.
These are my go-to ingredients to keep on hand.
Is there a way to organize this such that “combining x from y columns” always yields a delicious sauce?
You’re already starting out with a base paste (or several of them) that’s full of flavour and all you need to do is adjust with thicker/thinner ingredients until you have the desired consistency.
Thick stuff: miso
Thin stuff: melted butter, pasta water
Melt however much butter you want. Dig a spoonful of miso and toss it in. Add pasta water until it’s the right consistency.
Some sort of spicy creamy noodles
Thick stuff: peanut butter / tahini.
Thin stuff: soy sauce, black vinegar, sesame oil, chili oil, noodle water
Get a bowl and add it all in. Mix it until it’s a thick sauce. Mix with wet noodles and noodle water.
Thick stuff: flour, cheese
Thin stuff: butter, milk
Stir flour into melted butter over low heat. Add warm milk. Add grated cheese & spices. Maybe find a real recipe for measurements on this one - I’m less confident here in winging this.
Cacio e pepe
Thick stuff: cheese (pecorino) , black pepper
Thin stuff: pasta water
Literally just stir in the cheese and pepper into the pasta with some pasta water until it’s a sauce. I think it’s fair to add butter/oil too.
Thick stuff: anchovies, tomato paste, red pepper flakes
Thin stuff: oil, pasta water
Melt a chopped up anchovy in some olive oil with some garlic and red pepper flakes. Add tomato paste. Add pasta water.
Powders (spices) + oils → paste
Heat up some spices in oil. Now your spices are bloomed, oil is flavoured, and it’s become a paste. Maybe remix with some other pastes? Harissa? Tomato paste? Sriracha? Gochujang? Fermented bean paste? Whatever. Toss with starchy water, broth, cream?
Spicy cumin noodles
Heat up some vegetable oil. Combine cumin, coriander, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, green onions, szechuan pepper in a bowl (use whatever spices you have). Pour hot oil on top. Or do it the other way and dump spices into the hot oil. Toss with noodles. Drizzle some chili oil, soy sauce, and black vinegar on top.
It’s a simpler version of these noodles.
Aglio e olio
Sauté some garlic and red pepper flakes and black pepper in a bunch of olive oil. Toss with pasta. I think it’s still good if you can’t be bothered to chop parsley or cut a lemon.
Spicier butter miso
The butter miso from above but bloom red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and onion powder in the butter. Add tomato paste and gochujang with the miso. Mix in water/broth. This is extra good if you toss in large frozen shrimp.
Blended solids + liquids → thicker paste + thinner
This category is more involved than the other ones: there’s the extra step of preparing the solids and building up flavour in them. These are less of a late night sauce unless you’re really motivated.
Roasted vegetable sauce
Roast some vegetables. Roasting builds flavour. It could be red peppers, eggplant, butternut squash, zucchini, etc - whatever you want to roast! Combine them with maybe some other flavours you’ve got going on the stovetop like shallots or garlic or tomato paste, etc. Simmer with some stock and cream (or milk or yogurt or whatever else). Blend it.
Bean based sauce
Beans don’t have a lot of flavour but they do become really creamy. White beans like cannellini, chickpea, navy, etc work great. You’ll want to cook them with a flavour base (spices? onion/shallot? garlic? anchovies? another paste? some stock?). Blend half of the mixture for the sauce. Keep the other half for some diversity of texture. Here's a real recipe.
Pick a green and a nut and blend them with olive oil + garlic & salt).
Recommended future research and work include an examination of the relationship between pastes and soups.
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