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My town (and the surrounding countryside) is currently on level five water restrictions (target of 150 litres of water per person per day) and is reliant on bottled water for drinking and food preparation as our supply is contaminated. By the time the situation is resolved we would have been drinking bottled water for months and accumulating a lot of plastic containers. While these containers can be recycled, I prefer to abide by the 5R’s made popular by Bea Johnson.
Thankfully, I had developed this recipe long before the bottled water alert. Inspired by Eat Well for Less I discovered that the cheapest budget pasta can be tasty if cooked correctly. I adapted their recipe to suit my budget and the available ingredients. This recipe also requires minimal utensils and creates little washing up which is super-important when it’s hard to stand for long periods and energy levels are low.
The recipe (and method) are a little fast and loose and I would encourage you to adapt it to whatever ingredients you enjoy and for the quantity you need. The trick is in the stirring. Keep an eye on it and stir every few minutes to stop the pasta from sticking to the bottom. Once you’ve made it a few times you’ll be able to rest between stirring.
This recipe makes two portions.
- Oil for frying
- Half an onion, diced, or as much as you want, to taste
- A generous teaspoon of minced garlic, or to taste. I used bottled minced garlic as it’s easier. By all means use a clove or several if you have it.
- A very generous tablespoon of tomato paste
- Whatever dried or fresh herbs you fancy (I use basil and oregano)
- Some form of dried stock, either a stock cube or Vegeta powder
- 400g tin of diced tomatoes
- a splash of balsamic vinegar (you can omit this if you don’t have it or substitute red wine if you have some open)
- a 500ml cupful of dried pasta (see picture and explanation)
- fill the 400g tomato tin with water (see method)
- grated cheese for serving if you have it or want it (entirely optional)
Use the largest saucepan you have to prevent pasta flying everywhere as you stir it. Heat a splash of whatever oil you use for cooking and add the diced onion and the minced garlic. Fry until soft. Add the tinned tomatoes, dried stock, tomato paste and herbs. Stir to combine and when this starts to bubble, turn the heat down to low. When you’ve finished stirring, fill the now empty 400g tomato tin with water. When I wasn’t using bottled water I’d use boiling water to reduce the cooking time but this is not essential. Using this tin has the added benefit of using up every last bit of tomato.
Add the cupful of dried pasta. I use an old souvenir mug which has a capacity of 500ml. Give it a good stir and then add around three quarters of the water in the tomato tin. Give it another good stir. Slowly add the rest of the water as it is absorbed by the pasta. The amount of water you need may vary according to the type of pasta you use but it will not be more than the 400g tin. You may end up using slightly less.
Put the lid on between stirring. As a general guide, you will need around twice the cooking time for your pasta. If your pasta needs 12 minutes allow a good 20 minutes. Stir every couple of minutes to prevent it sticking to the bottom and, around the time you think it might be done, have a try to see if it is al dente. Add the balsamic vinegar just prior to serving and stir.
Spoon out into bowls and slather in grated cheese. Another variation is chilli flakes and chopped black olives.