With social distancing guidelines and shelter in place laws in effect at least through the end of the month, it’s time to start taking this seriously and not leaving your house unless it’s absolutely necessary. Part of that means not going to the grocery store for one loaf of bread or because you ran out of LaCroix, and instead, learning to get creative with the items you already have in your kitchen.
When the instructions for social distancing and self-isolation came from Governor Newsom here in California, one thing I didn’t have to worry about was being able to eat from my pantry. It’s not that I’m a canned food fan. In fact, I much prefer the type of foods that live in the refrigerator: fresh vegetables, juicy fruits and select organic proteins. It’s more that I’m a fundamentally lazy person. Yes, I may have written a 500-hundred page cookbook, BUT if given the choice to go into my car and drive in L.A. traffic to go to the supermarket, where I then have to find parking before grocery shopping, versus sit on my couch and watch an episode of Silicon Valley until I fall into an hour-long slumber, I choose the latter. I really love a good nap.
So, because I am lazy, at times, I find myself hungry without fresh food in the house. I don’t like ordering in, and so it is in these moments that I get the most creative in my kitchen. Fueled by hunger for a proper meal, I play with the ingredients I find buried in my pantry, a skill that’s become especially useful now that we are supposed to be limiting trips to the supermarket.
Since everyone is making pasta like never before, I thought I’d start off with a simple sauce recipe that even the laziest of us can accomplish.
Recommendation: Read through recipes outside the kitchen, like on the couch or even when you’re in bed. Get a feel for how each one works. That way if you’re missing some ingredients, you can come up with alternatives before you find yourself in the throes of cooking. For example, if you read through this recipe thinking “I don’t have red pepper flakes for the sauce,” take an inventory of your pantry to see what else you might have—maybe you’ve got some cayenne sitting around. Or maybe you’ll think, “I have a jalapeño I can chop up.” The point is to not go running out for spices or other ingredients, and figure out how to make do with what you’ve got. And by the way, if you have none of those heat-adding touches on hand, just make it without the spiciness (it will still taste fine, I promise). The purpose is to use these recipes as a template for you to get creative in your pantry, which is a lesson that will serve you well past the end of quarantining.
So without further ado, let’s make a simple tomato and basil sauce from the ingredients that have probably been sitting in your pantry for months.
Simple Tomato and Basil Sauce
I like canned tomatoes for certain sauces, because they’re just as good in the winter as they are in the summer—unlike fresh tomatoes, which are only good in summer—and they lend themselves to a richer sauce, with very little work.
This sauce doesn’t have many ingredients. It’s the opposite of Emeril Lagasse’s “BAM, BAM BAM!” explosions of flavor. This sauce is about harmony, about letting the garlic and whole basil leaves gently infuse their flavors into the tomatoes. The carrots add sweetness to the tomatoes naturally, without sugar, and lend a mildly earthy flavor.
⭐︎ 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
⭐︎ ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
⭐︎ 3 large garlic cloves
⭐︎ ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
⭐︎ 1 to 2 carrots, cut into matchstick pieces
⭐︎ 1 to 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
⭐︎ 10 to 15 fresh basil leaves, left on stems
Makes: 2 cups sauce for a box or a box and half of pasta
- Place a medium heavy pan over a medium flame for a couple minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and their juices to a food processor or blender and pulse into a thick pulp. You can also squeeze the tomatoes by hand, but be careful of the splattering!
- Add the olive oil to the hot pan, followed by the garlic, red pepper flakes, and carrots. Watch as the bubbles emanate from garlic; that is the garlic infusing its flavor into the oil. Don’t let the garlic burn or even brown—you want it to stay translucent.
- After several minutes, add the tomato purée. You will see olive oil coming up on the sides of the tomatoes; this is ok, the olive oil helps to transform the flavor of the tomatoes.
- Add a good sprinkling of salt, about 1 teaspoon, and a large handful of basil leaves. Stir occasionally. It will be done when it is no longer watery and the sauce has thickened, 20 to 25 minutes,
- Taste for salt and add more if necessary. If you aren’t sure if there is enough salt, there isn’t. Add more.
- Remove the carrots and use them as a side dish for another meal (see Variation). It’s up to you if you want to remove the garlic and basil leaves or keep them in for a rustic feel.
Variation: If you’d like a sweeter, more nutritious sauce, remove the garlic and basil and puree the tomato sauce with about half of the carrots in a blender or food processor. It will be delicious (and a good way to hide vegetables from your kids).
Enjoy with a box and a half of your favorite pasta (now you finally know how much to make).
In 2010, back in her hometown of Los Angeles, Elana founded the Meal and a Spiel cooking school out of her parents’ kitchen, and now travels the country teaching people how to make phenomenal food, easily.
Elana holds a B.A. from Brown University and a M.A. from Middlebury College in Florence, both in Italian Studies. She has written and performed stand-up comedy to Los Angeles audiences, spent 4 years teaching high school World History and has led experiential culinary vacations throughout the boot of Italy.
Her ultimate dream is to live in a world where everyone shares love with one another through cooking.
If feminism means being able to do everything a man can do, then it also means being able to not do everything a man
can doesn’t do. And by that I mean, if women are expected to learn how to cook just because men don’t want to do it, I’m calling bullshit. Future boyfriends, take note: I’m not learning how to cook.
Women don’t belong in the kitchen any more than Rachel Dolezal belongs in NAACP. It’s one thing if your passion is cooking, but honestly there are so many better things you can do that don’t involve handling raw meat and sweating over a fire. Like, there’s a reason cooking only happens in the “before” part of Disney fairytales when the princesses are still poor and single. People learn to cook because they can’t afford to pay others to do it for them, or because they’re too boring to come up with a better hobby. Seriously, if your hobby is a basic survival skill, you need to get an actual hobby.
Do men love a woman who can cook? Sure, I mean… who doesn’t? I fucking love anyone that can cook because I love good food. But am I trying to marry the chef at Peter Luger steakhouse? Much like I enjoy listening to music but I would never date a guitarist, I can also enjoy eating food made by people who are good at making food without having any desire to date them.
And just because a woman can cook doesn’t give her an advantage when it comes to dating bros. And honestly, girls who talk about how good they are at cooking are like bros that talk about how much money they make. I mean, it might be true, but what’s also true is they have no personality and they’re desperate for you to like them. A picture of your home cooked meal on Instagram is just as much of a thirst trap as a picture of you in a bikini. At least the bikini picture is something everyone can enjoy. Meanwhile all anyone gets from looking at a picture of your chicken parm is annoyed.
Here’s the thing. Even if I was bored enough where I would bother learning how to cook just to pass the time, I wouldn’t want to get too good at it. If you get too good at cooking, people are going to expect you to keep cooking for them. That’s why you should treat cooking the same way you treat blowjobs. You might get good at them in college, but you lie to your boyfriend and say they’re not really your thing. Otherwise he’s going to expect them all the time. If you pretend you hate them, he won’t ask you for them and you can surprise him if you’re feeling generous. In the same way, it’s better if you don’t bother to learn how to cook so you don’t have to do it at all. Do you think Prince Harry knows how to drive a limo? Of course not. But he knows how to ride in one because he’s a prince. You can have a refined palette for food without knowing how to puree a sauce.
I’d rather be a homeschooled jungle freak than have a bro fall in love with me for my cooking. Best case scenario is we get married and then I have to cook for him the rest of our marriage. You literally can only go downhill from there. On the other hand, if I never learn how to cook, we’ll constantly go out to eat at nice restaurants and I never have to hear about how his mom’s recipe was better when we’re 12 years in a marriage with kids that won’t eat their vegetables.
Basically, I want to set the expectations as low as possible when it comes to being domestic, because I am not fucking domestic. Like, why would you want to confine yourself to being an indoor cat when you can be a cheetah in the wild? I mean, we need to be free to eat out at Michelin star restaurants, not getting all Cinderella in the kitchen over some Julia Child cook book. Plus, knowing how to make a drink is way more useful than knowing how to julienne some carrots for a stew. I will shake the shit out of a cocktail glass, but don’t ask me to marinate anything unless it’s one of those gummy bears you soak in vodka—in which case I am pretty much a master chef.
Sorry, but I’m not going to learn how to cook. I see no downside in this except that the bros I date will have to take me out to eat all the time or know how to cook himself. Sorry, did I say downside? There are no downsides.
They say if you can’t handle the heat, GTFO of the kitchen and I’ve always been more of an ice queen anyway.