Garlic-tomato (paste) pasta with peas and basil

Once in a while, you find yourself at home without a lot of groceries on hand and you need to make a quick dinner.  You haven't thought much about it in advance so you need to come up with something using what you have in the house and you want it to be relatively quick to prepare.
Using tomato paste is not only convenient but gives the sauce a deep, rich flavor
That was me last Sunday night.  It was a busy weekend, mostly because my husband and I were tackling a little home project of painting one of our rooms in preparation for new carpet installation.  

Even when it's busy, I still like to cook for my family on the weekends as much as I can.  In recent years, our cravings for take out and eating out has dwindled so much and weekends are when I get the chance to make hot meals we can all dig into together at the same time.  So last Sunday, I started thinking about dinner and remembered a pasta recipe I'd pulled out from a magazine recently.
Here's what I like about this pasta dish...you use tomato paste as the basis for the sauce.  So no tomatoes, no problem!  When I buy a new container of tomato paste, I like to portion out the extra in tablespoon mounds and freeze them.  This way, I can grab what I need from the freezer when a recipe calls for it.  I often use tomato paste - loosened with a bit of hot water and seasoned with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and dry oregano - to make a tomato "sauce" base for pizza at home.

This dinner comes together in under 30 minutes.  Olive oil, thinly sliced garlic, tomato paste, and some red pepper flakes get cooked down with some pasta water.  Finish cooking the pasta - thin spaghetti in this case - in the liquid and stir in some peas (always in my freezer) and a handful of fresh basil (which I snip from my little herb box).  If you like and have time, add a little protein like I did with shrimp.  I also grabbed that from the freezer and simply cooked it up in the same pan before starting the sauce.

The pasta turned out flavorful and hearty.  I served it with garlic bread, which I'd made a few days earlier and tucked away in the freezer (maybe I was subconsciously planning this meal, but my son loves garlic bread).  That went in the oven while I made the pasta and we had a fortifying dinner!


Most of the elements for this dinner came from the freezer - the tomato paste, peas, shrimp, and garlic bread.  There's always a variety of pasta in my pantry so whenever I need to make dinner that I hadn't planned for, I'm likely to consider it.  All of this reminds me it's worth the effort to maintain a well-stocked pantry and a full freezer so that you can always put together a meal without a lot of advance planning or grocery shopping.

I had no time to take any proper pictures but the meal was such a tasty and handy one, I wanted to save the recipes here.  I know I'll be making this meal again.

Recipe:

Garlic-Tomato (Paste) Pasta with Peas and Basil
Adapted from Food Network magazine, June 2015 issue

- Makes 3 to 4 servings - 

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup frozen peas (I use petite peas), thawed
10 ounces thin spaghetti (or angel hair pasta)
Large handful (about 1/2 cup) fresh basil, roughly chopped, plus more for topping
Salt and pepper, for seasoning
Optional: grated parmesan, for serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook, stirring, until edges begin to turn golden, about a minute.  Add tomato paste, stirring and cooking, for about a minute.  Add red pepper flakes, and 1 1/2 cups of the salted boiling water. Stir to dissolve the tomato paste.  Simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.  

Meanwhile, cook pasta about 2 minutes shy of al dente.  Reserve about 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain pasta (or simply use tongs to transfer pasta into the sauce).  Add pasta to the skillet, followed by the basil and the peas, and cook over medium heat until pasta is al dente.  Add the reserved pasta water, as needed, to make a loose sauce.  Taste, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary. Remove from the heat, ladle into serving bowls.  Top with a little more fresh basil, and parmesan cheese (if desired).  


Garlic Bread

- For one loaf (4-6 servings) - 

1 loaf baguette or ciabatta bread (baguette or ciabatta)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, pressed or finely minced
Salt and pepper
Chopped fresh parsley (about 2 tablespoons)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Split bread in half horizontally.  

In a small bowl, combine melted butter and olive oil.  Add garlic, a little salt and pepper, and stir together.  Stir in chopped parsley.

Brush the bread evenly with the garlic mixture.  Place the halves together and wrap in foil (you can freeze the bread at this point).  Bake until bread is warm and crusty, about 12 minutes or so.  Open up the foil during the last few minutes of baking.  For extra crispy garlic bread, run bread through the broiler for a minute or two (open up foil and place bread, spread-side up, under the broiler).  



38 comments:

  1. Yay for meals that you can just throw together with short notice! This looks so comforting and delicious! Love the tomato paste idea, it sounds wonderful with the peas and garlic bread :) Hope you have a great weekend!

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    1. I don't eat as much pasta as I used to (boy, did I use to eat pasta!) but it's still a big part of the rotation. Pasta - all kinds - are just so good. All the better with garlic bread. ; ) Enjoy the weekend!

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  2. This looks fabulous and love that you included a garlic bread recipe :) So yum! Pinned.

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    1. Glad you like it! I was looking to make garlic bread the other day, thinking I had the recipe here. When I realized it wasn't, it was time to fix that. : )

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  3. This is one of my favorite pasta recipes that we use when we harvest our peas and tomatoes (sometimes we toss in some carrots/broccoli too). But what I really love is that garlic bread... goodness, it's one of my weaknesses!

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    1. Oh boy...it would be even better with your fresh ingredients. I'm glad my freezer stashes can step in when I don't have access to fresh though. : ) Garlic bread is a weakness of mine too. Carbs...just too wonderful...

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  4. How fabulous! I love speedy meals like this and the vegetables in this make it a whole meal! :D

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    1. Thanks, Lorraine. Whipping up a quick meal always feels good.

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  5. Those shrimp are so succulent and delicious!

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    1. I can never go without some shrimp in my freezer for when we can't get fresh.

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  6. You know what, I love love meals like this, the non fussy kind. I use tomato paste quite a bit too, which I do think is so yum. I just love this with the peas, I'm gonna make it this week.
    Our eating out also has gone down so much, love making simple and complicated meals at home.
    All the best for your painting, sounds like fun.
    Hugs and have a great weekend.

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    1. Thanks so much! I'm so glad you like it. For me, simple is what I tackle best. : )

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  7. I love that you use tomato paste --- I keep a tube of it in the fridge and use it to jazz up so many things --- this is pure comfort food as far as I'm concerned!

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    1. Tomato paste is so intense and so useful. I need to make sure I eat my fair share of fresh tomatoes this season too, though! ;)

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  8. What a delicious dish! Sometimes simple IS tastier ;)

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    1. Thanks, Monica. Simple is a lifesaver.

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  9. Love meals like this, simple but delicious! The garlic bread with it just makes it sound all the more appealing. Really craving this now...

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    1. Everything is better with garlic bread. ; )

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  10. I love the look of this pasta! A perfect solution for a hurried evening. Can't wait to try it myself.

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    1. Hope you do, Beth. We need to take advantage of seasonal produce but sometimes, you just find yourself in a bind. : )

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  11. Love that nice pile of gorgeous pasta. I also will remember that great tip about freezing tomato paste. You can never use the whole can and that is a great idea. I love these go to pantry dinners that you can make in a flash. Good luck with your DIY project!

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    1. I'm glad I can share a useful idea with you, BAM! All's good here, thank you. : )

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  12. Okay, I feel totally ridiculous that I've never thought to use tomato paste as the base for a sauce ... I always have it on hand! Unlike tomatoes! This meal looks delicious - we don't eat out that much anymore either so I love having ideas like this for when my pantry/fridge is running low!

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    1. You are never 'ridiculous'! I'm so glad I might have shared something useful with you. That said, I bought some fresh tomatoes today. You have me realizing I need to buy more/eat more while they're in season. Thank you! : )

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  13. This sounds so good, I love peas. A perfect mid-week meal.

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    1. Same here - peas are so great. That and corn. : )

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  14. I feel your pain on the painting before carpet. We had a mess in our house for about a month trying to get it all done. Even when you are busy you are putting out amazing meals like this one! It looks and sounds delicious. Love it :)

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    1. That project is almost done. Not a big undertaking but still disrupts things. Thanks, Tricia.

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  15. YUM! Your dish looks stunning! I love peas with pasta!

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  16. Beautiful meal Monica, never thought to freeze tomato paste like this, great idea.

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    1. I forget where I originally learned the tip but it's great...when you use it in a sauce, you can practically just toss it in so it's really ready to go anytime. Glad you like it, Cheri.

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  17. Somehow the tomato garlic shrimp combination is a hit...in any form of pasta, even risotto. I am impressed that you like to cook on weekends too. I am all about food on weekdays so I take a break on weekends. Either eating out or quick bake stuff from supermarkets or just this and that. Exciting times ahead for you with a freshly painted room. I am a colour freak...If I could I would change my wall colours every week:-)

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    1. Once upon a time, I could not fathom cooking more than 3x a week. I learned a lot in recent years - mostly that I can make simple meals far healthier at home. It's become a nice routine but who knows...I may change. And believe me, my meals are really simple generally and I do often take breaks when it gets to be too much. : ) As for painting...I'm afraid my color choices are far more boring than yours. Predictably...

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  18. Honestly, this sounds so good. We've been eating out for the past 5 days, and will be for next 4 weeks minimum. I appreciate even a simple dishes like this that you made with limited ingredients. I have to try half butter half olive oil method you shared - that's a good idea. :) Ah comfort food. And how many rooms are you painting? Years ago my husband and I painted the kitchen, breakfast nook, and one of kids' room and we gave up. It took us so long...! Not to mention our neck! Hope you're doing okay. :D xoxo

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    1. Oh boy, I almost forgot about your kitchen reno! Good luck and keep thinking about how wonderful it will be when it's done!!
      It's funny about the painting...last summer, we wanted a room painted and the guy who was supposed to do it fell through and we didn't want to wait so we decided to try it ourselves. It was so relatively easy and we felt so good about ourselves (haha) that we feel like we can handle doing more painting ourselves. That said, we know our limits! We only had to do a playroom and the carpet went in yesterday...life is back to normal here. Good luck on your end, Nami! xo

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  19. I love freezer dinners that pull together in a flash, yet are homemade delicious too! Your photos have me craving pasta and garlic bread....and its many hours until dinner! In the winter, we often have "what ever is in the freezer soup". At least this yummy pasta can be recreated with the recipe. Its always a problem for me when, a week or so after eating my freezer soup of the moment, my husband asks me to make the soup again, and I have no idea what I put into it! Have you tried the tomato paste in a tube (like a tooth paste tube) from Trader Joe's? I keep one in the fridge for when ever I need a tablespoon or two.

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    1. Hi Wendy - love the sound of that soup. I do something where I toss spices for a dry rub in our meat for grilling and I keep thinking I should write down the amounts and what I use or I'll forget one day. Somehow it works out. : ) And yes - I used to buy the tubes and do you remember after a while, TJ stopped selling them in tubes and they got hard to find in general. That's when the freezing in tablespoons started. And did you realize the box says to use the tube up after a week or something crazy short like that?! I'm sure there is a far bigger leeway (I used to keep my tube in the fridge for ages) but now I've gotten into this habit anyway and I know I won't waste a thing.

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