For every Nonna there is a pasta dish that encompasses three ingredients plus the magic of Nonna’s love. I don’t have a Nonna, I have a Grammaw because I’m from Wisconsin. And before your imagination runs wild, yes, she does have all of her teeth and no, she does not bathe in a galvanized wash bucket nor shuffle around the woods with a shotgun in a floral muumuu lookin’ for possum to skin for dinner.
The point is, pasta della Nonna is one of those dishes that Italian grandmothers are counted on for. Her spawn and in turn their own remember it as the dish that resurrected them on sick days, buried their shame when they were dumped, it was the pasta for baptisms and when your father got promoted to consigliere, then again when he got whacked for turning rat.
Since I have a Grammaw, and sauerbrauten is not one of those warm fuzzy dishes that can be counted on to clear up a funk or console the dead, I have borrowed a friend’s Nonna, and tweaked her della to make it my own; because if I did have a Nonna, and not a Grammaw, she would be vegan and either too cheap or too poor or just plain too lazy to do more than dice an onion and boil some noodles to show me how much she cared.
PS, this dish will cost you all of $1.47 to make.
Eh, goomba! Here’s what you’ll need!
The quantities and measurements for this dish are for one because I’m making lunch right now just for myself and wanted to put up a quick post. So if you’re cooking for more than that, I will let you do the math.
4 oz. Whole spelt pasta. About 2 TB tomato paste. 1/2 Red onion. About 2 tsp. Fresh marjoram leaves, torn. Olive oil. Pasta water.
Boil and drain pasta (be sure to salt your pasta water, it should taste of the sea), reserving about 1 cup pasta water, set aside. Whole spelt pasta only takes about 6 minutes to cook, so watch it. The dish will come together quickly, so no need to toss pasta in oil to keep from sticking.
Dice the red onion.
Mince the garlic. Tear your marjoram leaves.
Heat the olive oil in a pan, add your red onion and brown over medium heat. Don’t blast the flame, these babies burn easily.
When your onions have sufficiently browned, get your garlic into the pan. Cook for about 30 seconds, then add your tomato paste.
I add a heaping spoonful, which looks to add up to about 2 TB.
Cook your paste out until it caramelizes. Tomato paste has a lot of natural sugar, so it won't take long to caramelize. You will know once you're there because it will start to smell sweet and caramely and a thin film will coat the bottom of the pan. Because this happens quickly, make sure your flame is no higher than medium, you don't want to burn your paste
Once your paste is caramelized, get about 1/3 cup pasta water into the pan, scraping up any bits of caramelized tomato paste from the bottom of the pan.
Then toss in the reserved pasta and marjoram.
Toss about over medium heat till the pasta absorbs some of the sauce, and the sauce gets silky. If the pan looks dry, add a little more of the reserved pasta water by the tablespoon until you get the consistency right.
When you get it to where you want it to be, good and saucy, serve (yourself!)
Mangia bene, vivi felice!