Bianco de Napoli canned tomatoes used to make Marcella Hazan's famous pasta sauce

What to Make When You've Forgotten How to Make Dinner

Apr 14, 2024Eshun Mott

At some point, fairly early into adulthood and independence, the realization that we have to make dinner EVERY night, or at the very least, find a way to feed and nourish ourselves every day, clicks in. You build your list of “go-tos” - a repertoire of foods you can put together without a great deal of energy or mental effort. These evolve and change depending on finances and time, and who and how many people you are feeding, and yet it never fails that one day 3 pm hits and you start to think about making dinner and draw a complete blank - like making dinner is something you’ve never done before.

This doesn’t happen if you’re a meal-planner and have plotted out and shopped for your week ahead, but we’ve all been there at some point… staring into the fridge hoping something will jump out at us. There are many tricks to keep this from happening - bookmarking things you want to try, keeping a running list of recipes you’ve made and liked, assigning certain kinds of meals to days of the week - hokey as it seems, Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, and Pizza Fridays can truly help you come up with something to eat when you find yourself overwhelmed by, say, this week’s news that Toronto is now officially the most expensive city to live in in North America.

Thankfully, these pantry meals are also often cheap and cheerful. Maybe for you these are egg or rice-based recipes, easy soups, or a quick dal, but for us, they’re almost always pasta. It takes so little beyond pantry ingredients to make a good pasta. Colu Henry wrote a whole book on this subject called Back Pocket Pasta which is great for inspiration in this area - it all comes down to having a well stocked pantry.

We’ve already talked about our love of Sausage & Rapini pasta (with Chuck Hughes pepper spread), but if you don’t know about Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter, this is another trick to have up your sleeve. Basically a 3-ingredient sauce that’s so much more than the sum of its parts, you just need a good can of tomatoes (the Bianco di Napoli canned tomatoes are perfect) and a little time (we find 45 min to 1 hr to be long enough). We made a reel of it on instagram yesterday if you want a visual walk through. Use your hands to squish up the tomatoes - it’s so much less messy than chopping, and tells you a lot about the quality of tomatoes you’re cooking. Put it on the stove, turn on some music, and you’re sure to feel better about the world and your place in it. Make sure you keep a few ladles of pasta cooking water to loosen up the finished sauce, and if you have Parmesan or fresh herbs to sprinkle over top that’s even better. 

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