When one talks about the joy of cooking, the most common retort I encounter is, “Who has the time to cook nowadays?”
I pretty much understand this dilemma, as I also have this complaint from time to time. I also know of many folks who are just learning how to cook and still want to run to the hills at the thought of having to make a meal by themselves. Let’s add to this the occasional nightmare of doing cleanup after the meal.
And so, we arrive at the mother of all questions every exhausted, servant-less (as the great Julia Child would say) urban home cook asks: is the effort even worth it?
We all deserve a good meal at the end of each day as a reward for hard work. That is why I don’t want to sacrifice any meal. For sure, cooking may require a lot of effort. But not always. One just needs to explore all the options now available at the grocery and work smart. The result is very rewarding – a good gourmet meal you can enjoy every single day.
For me, the easiest gourmet dish to make is pasta. You can use just one pan or skillet for everything. Now, the main secret is the sauce. One need not make sauce from scratch. The key is looking for good ready-made, store-bought sauces that you will truly like. We have gone a long way from the store-bought sauces of 15 to 20 years ago, and the choices now are quite exciting. So yes, we now have so many other choices apart from pesto or puttanesca. Store-bought sauces have all the complete ingredients, even complete with the spices and herbs. When I use store-bought sauces, I would just need to add salt, pepper, and a little garlic if I want a stronger taste.
At a grocery in Singapore, I found Leggo’s Stir Through Ricotta, Spinach, and Pecorino Cheese Sauce. I got it for only 4 Singapore Dollars (roughly US$ 3), and it serves 4 people! It’s made in Australia. It looked very rich and creamy, and so, I bought it and gave it a try.
If you follow the instructions to the T, all you’ll need is to boil your noodles and add the sauce. The sauce smells and tastes good and you’ll never go wrong if you do this.
You can still, of course, add your own imprint to this recipe as I did– and still make it your own recipe. It’s very simple.
Yes, just boil the noodles. I used my fool-proof recipe to cook pasta using the microwave. For this session I used farfalle noodles — bowtie noodles, 300 grams.
While the noodles are boiling, I worked on the sauce and its other ingredients. I simply added bacon. I always have bacon in the freezer because it goes practically with any pasta sauce.
When I bought the bacon, I asked my butcher to give me paper-thin strips. They cook faster. They have an interesting consistency– paper-thin yet crunchy. And for me, they had more flavor. I sautéed the bacon on a non-stick pan, using medium heat. By the way, keep your eye on the pan as they do cook very fast. No need to add oil. The bacon’s oils make the bacon even crunchier. Take out the bacon and set aside once it’s crunchy. Don’t discard the oil.
Saute the garlic. To save time, I sometimes buy peeled garlic. It allows you to skip the peeling and go to the chopping and cooking.
Once the garlic is to starts browning, lower the heat. I then added Leggo’s Stir Through Sauce. For extra kick, I added 1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. Just make sure you don’t put too much lemon juice as too much of it steals the show from the delicious spinach sauce.
Add your cooked noodles. Stir thoroughly. Add a little pasta water and olive oil to prevent the dish from drying up.
Top with grated parmesan cheese and your cooked bacon.
The taste? Creamy and very delicious. The sauce tasted as if I made it from scratch using fresh spinach. The ricotta made the sauce very creamy, while the pecorino added kick. And, with or without the extra ingredients I mentioned, the sauce did and does taste very good. There’s nothing in it that screams “instant”! So unless your guests also use this sauce, you can serve this to guests and they will not know that you just bought the sauce at the grocery.
This sauce has my stamp of approval. You can prepare it in 15 minutes. It’s reasonably-priced. And of most importantly, it’s very delicious. Store-bought sauce. Rated Delicious.