Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Enzo's Five-Minute Pasta Sauce

Don't get me wrong, I love cooking a pasta sauce for the better part of a day (or gravy, as we call it in my family) but sometimes you just want something fast and easy with a few simple ingredients and get on with your evening.

Here, let me set the scene for you, it's a beautiful thing: 

You get home from work. It's 6, or 7 o'clock in the evening. You're probably exhausted, let's face it, it's been a long day. Isn't it nice to know all you have to do is chop up a few garlic cloves, saute them up in a tbs. of olive oil, throw in a few crushed red pepper flakes and a 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes. Cook it for a few minutes, and call it a day? 

In five minutes, you can have a delicious sauce that tastes just as good as that sauce that spent most of the day on the stove. (Mom, don't judge me, you know I love your sauce)

So, here's the back story on this amazing recipe. I was in 5th grade, so this recipe is from 1997 (and trust me, if I remember something for over a decade it HAS to be good), at Rollins College Summer Camp in Winter Park, FL and I was taking a cooking class. A chef named Enzo, who had a very yummy restaurant aptly named Enzo's in town, came in to teach us one of his recipes. And it was on that blustery summer day in central Florida that I first learned (and tasted) this lovely gem of a recipe, and I've been making it ever since. And as soon as you try it you too will be making it for years to come, I promise!

Enzo's Five-Minute Pasta Sauce:


2 tbs. of extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
28 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes
pinch of salt


First you want to crush the can of whole tomatoes. I use my hand, but you're more than welcome to use your favorite crushing tool (a potato masher is good, too). Just make sure to keep the sauce relatively chunky. The tomatoes will cook down slightly on the stove making for the perfect chunky/smooth pasta sauce.

Next you want to slice up your garlic cloves. Instead of smashing the garlic I like to peel it and thinly slice it for this particular recipe. But this is your chance to be creative, so do this to your liking (and the same goes for that crushed red pepper...making it as hot or as mild as you want).

You want to lightly brown the garlic in a saute pan over medium-low heat. Once the garlic begins to brown, add the crushed red pepper and saute briefly. Then add your tomatoes (and be careful, they have the tendency to splatter and make a mess when they hit the hot oil, so just be careful please!).

This only needs to cook for about 5 minutes. You'll be amazed how the sauce thickens over that time. Once the sauce has reduced, check it for seasonings. I added a little more crushed red pepper and a heavy pinch of salt but this is to your liking. So be creative and have fun with it!

This sauce is a wonderful base, so add to it if you want. You could add some roasted garlic, or maybe some capers and olives and make a delicious puttanesca sauce. It's really up to you!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Ah yes, fajita night, the evening that's almost as good as taco night. Or at least that's the way I used to think of it--that is until I discovered what one amazing marinade can do to steak, fish, chicken, you name it! A few simple ingredients can turn an ordinary meal into a great foodie adventure!!

Okay, so maybe that sounds a little cheesy but, let's be honest, it's a heck of a lot cheaper to try Mexican, Italian, Japanese, and so on (you get the picture) cuisine at home then it is to travel halfway across the globe. Sometimes it's fun to be a little adventurous with your cooking. So instead of splurging on that week-long cruise to through the Gulf coast, why not splurge on a few exotic spices!

So, let's get on with this recipe!



1 medium white or yellow onion
1 bell pepper
1-2 cloves of garlic
olive oil
1 lime
salt and pepper
two servings sirloin (or whichever cut of beef you prefer)
1 tsp. of cumin
1/2 tsp. of dried oregano
cayenne pepper to your taste
a handful of fresh cilantro
(salsa, guacamole, chimichurri...all yummy things you can top your fajita with!)


The night before serving you want to begin marinating your protein. The marinade is pretty simply composed of the juice of one lime, about a quarter cup of olive oil (or 3 times as much as the lime juice) and a heavy pinch of salt and pepper. Combine ingredients together and store in the fridge over night in a heavy ziploc bag. I like to keep mine in a bowl as well, just in case any meat decides to make a run for it.

You want to take your meat out of the fridge when you start preparing everything else for dinner just to take the chill off of it. That way it will sear up really yummily!

Now, below I have what I like to call the "dream team" of this recipe: garlic, lime, onion, and bell pepper as well as oregano, cumin, and cayenne pepper. I love the way smokey spices, like cumin, really add a great flavor to Mexican dishes. And these lovely veggies (or fruits) and spices really kick up the flavor of these fajitas!

First you want to begin by slicing up your onion and your bell pepper pretty thinly and shoot for about the same size for both. I usually just halve the onion and make thin slices, running from the top to the bottom of the onion, and julienne the bell pepper.

Now when it comes to the garlic, well, that I'll leave up to you. I personally love the flavor of garlic so I chop mine up pretty finely and saute it in with the peppers and onions. However, if you prefer a little less garlic flavor (don't worry, I won't judge you) then just crush the cloves, throw them in whole and remove them after peppers and onions saute.

First you want to saute the bell peppers in about a tbs. of olive oil for about 5 minutes or so, until they're starting to become tender but still maintain their lovely greenliness. 

Once the peppers are, welll, "al dente" go ahead and add the onions and the garlic. The reason I add these later mainly has to do with the cooking time of the onion and the tendency that garlic has to burn if added straight away. You want to let the onions and the peppers cook together for another five minutes or so before adding the salt, pepper and spices.

And yes, I know that looks like a ton of onions but I promise they'll begin to settle down shortly!

You can see below that after those five minutes of cooking the onions are starting to cook down and turn translucent. At this point you want to go ahead and add the spices! Yum yum!

To the onions and the peppers I added 1 tsp. of cumin, 1/2 tsp. of dried oregano, and I like 1/4 tsp. of cayenne pepper. But just be aware that cayenne pepper can get really spicy, really fast! So consider this your warning. Do it to your tastes, but be careful. That is seriously hot!

In the mean time, heat up your grill and prepare your toppings. For me, that's chopped fresh cilantro, lime zest and some lime juice! Yum! But be creative, this is really up to you. I mean, that's half the fun!

Go ahead and grill your steak to your liking, I like mine about medium to medium-rare. Yum...

Top your protein with your onions and peppers mixture and whatever other toppings you're adding. Roll it up and enjoy!!

Mmm...steak fajitas!

I hope you enjoy this recipe. Sorry it's taken me so long to update this blog but you'll be rewarded for your patience with lots of yummy recipes to come (and maybe some dorky YouTube videos as well...prepare yourself).

Until next time and, as always, buon appetito!