Today it seems most of us lead busier lives than ever, making family activities an exceedingly rare occurrence. If your home is anything like mine, then more often you return from the day’s work to find everyone glued to whatever technological apparatus of the moment reigns supreme, and it only becomes more difficult as the kids get older.
This Father’s Day, instead of rounding up the troops and going out for a celebratory meal, try cooking together as a family at home. Cooking can be a lot of fun, and is one of the rare things we do in my family that the kids never seem to get tired of, even as they creep up on those dreaded teen years.
A great recipe that is a crowd pleaser year round is Spaghetti Pomodoro, because it's simple, delicious, affordable, and easy to pair wine with! If you have picky eaters at home, this should really be a go to -- it is simple enough to satisfy even the finickiest eaters, but easy to add additional ingredients to if others want to be more adventurous. It you have a lot of time on your hands, you might want to consider making your pasta from scratch, a process the kids will love.
Too often, the younger children get stuck with the more menial tasks, such as folding napkins and setting the table. But honestly, where is the fun in that? Leaving the little ones the most boring job isn’t exactly the way to get them excited about being in the kitchen.
Some of my oldest- and most fond memories of being at home with family take place in the kitchen, working side by side with my mother and my nonna Ermina to prepare the day’s meal. With very young children, safety can of course be an issue, but there are usually plenty of tasks that involve actual food preparation that the young ones can handle, and still feel they are a part of the action.
2 Tbsps olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 16-oz can whole Italian tomatoes
1 tsp Sicilian oregano (optional)
Heat oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Crush two garlic cloves with the heel of your hand. Add to olive oil and sauté until golden brown. While the garlic browns, pour the tomatoes into a bowl. Squeeze with your hands to break them up. Once the garlic is browned, add tomatoes and their juice to the sauce pan with the garlic. Add salt and pepper (and oregano if using).
Simmer over low heat for 45 minutes, adding water to keep the sauce from becoming too thick. Pomodoro sauce should be a rich red color. If it turns brick red, it’s too thick. Additional salt and pepper to taste if necessary.
Cook’s Note: For convenience, make up a large batch and freeze smaller portions in freezer bags
1 lb Rigarosa Spaghetti Chittara
A few basil leaves
Grana Padano cheese for grading
Prepare pomodoro sauce. While it simmers, heat water for pasta. Add enough salt to the pasta to make it as salty as seawater. In a sauce pan, heat up olive oil. Add pomodoro sauce (one half cup per serving) and simmer. When the pasta water is at a full boil, add pasta. Two minutes before the pasta is ready, remove from boiling water and add to the pomodoro sauce. Cook pasta until tender in the saucepan, allowing it to absorb the flavor and color of the sauce. Add a little pasta water if needed to keep the sauce liquid. When the pasta is done, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Garnish with shredded basil leaves and parmesan cheese.
Cook’s Notes: To turn pomodoro sauce into oreganata sauce, add several sprigs of fresh oregano to the pomodoro while it simmers. Remove before serving. To make arrabiata sauce, add red chili flakes to basic pomodoro sauce and simmer.
Wine pairing: Bring out those gorgeous san marzano tomatoes with a nice light to medium bodied red- stay away from anything too heavy and tannic, as this is really a lighter dish. A nice dolcetto d’alba is a safe bet- especially if you decide to turn your pomodoro into arrabiata by adding a little red chili flake.
Joe Bastianich is a famed restaurateur, winemaker, bestselling author and television personality. His new memoir, "Restaurant Man," is available now wherever books are sold. Be sure to catch Joe in action on "MasterChef" (Monday/Tuesday nights 9pm ET/PT on FOX) and follow him on Twitter at @jbastianich