Sometimes a simple meal is best. This basic, no-nonsense dish is the kind that can be whipped up in 20 minutes and, I believe, is best eaten on the couch with a mindless television program. The sauce uses mostly pantry staples, and yet somehow manages to feel genuinely comforting. It also comes from one of my most-used cookbooks, the completely stained but still standing The Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces by Diane Seed. It takes simplicity to whole new heights.
The key to this dish's success is to treat the mushrooms with a tad bit more care than usual. Only cook them until they are tender and just ready to burst. If they release too much water, they'll be dry. Cook the mushrooms separately from the tomato sauce and only add them at the very last second. They'll be plump and juicy, and add the perfect pop to the tomato sauce. With a drizzle of fine olive oil and a sprinkling of salt, this humble dish starts tasting a whole lot better than a pantry meal.
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus a little for drizzling at the end
- 1 14-ounce can plum tomatoes
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 10 ounces mushrooms, sliced
- handful parsley, chopped
- Salt and pepper
Pour half of the oil into a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until it fragrant, about a minute or two. Dump in the can of tomatoes and turn the heat to medium-high. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Cook until the sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes.
While the tomatoes are cooking, pour the rest of the oil into another skillet and add the sliced mushrooms. Cook over medium heat until they begin to release water, about 5 minutes. Turn heat to low, season with salt, and sprinkle with the chopped parsley.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to the directions on the box until al dente. Transfer to the skillet with the tomato sauce, toss until coated. Add the mushrooms, and toss. Serve with a sprinkling of cheese, a drizzle of good olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste.