My Spicy Umami Pasta

My Spicy Umami Pasta
(Leanne Brown)

TL;DR: Cook pasta. Make sauce. Pour pasta into sauce and cook. Sprinkle with cheese and scallions and serve.

Making an amazing dish out of whatever bits you have lying around feels so heroic, and this version of that experience happens to be just to my odd taste. It’s all the things I love together, and honestly, it’s so incredible that I really struggle to not make myself a second bowl after I finish the first. It’s a strange hybrid of nations and flavors, but it’s so spicy and umami and sweet and savory that I just can’t stop eating it. It’s my kind of pantry pasta, using all the things I always have leftover, such as half of a box or less of pasta; some butter, garlic, chile paste, and honey; and usually a partially finished bottle of wine. I wish I could help you all develop your own version of pantry pasta, but here’s mine to get the creative juices flowing.

Serves 1
  • Fine sea salt
  • 4 ounces rigatoni, shells, or orecchiette-style pasta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon (or more!) sambal oelek or chile paste of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste (see note)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 cup white wine or pasta water
  • 4 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • Grated parmesan or romano cheese
  • 1 scallion, chopped
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions for al dente, but take it off the heat and drain it 1 minute early.

As soon as you get your pasta in the boiling water, start the sauce. It comes together very quickly. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallot and sauté, stirring or swirling occasionally, until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Then add the sambal oelek, tomato paste, and honey and cook for another minute, stirring and squishing the sauce to mix it thoroughly—it will be bubbling and seem kinda weird because the tomato paste and chile paste are a bit thick, but don’t worry. Add the white wine and chopped olives, stir, and let everything cook for a minute or so. The sauce should look like a sauce now.

Add the slightly undercooked pasta to the sauce. Cook, tossing to coat, until the sauce is thick and every noodle is coated, about 3 minutes. Add more liquid if the sauce becomes too thick at any point.

Sprinkle parmesan over the pasta and toss one more time. Taste the pasta to make sure it’s cooked enough and add salt if you need it. Remove the pan from the heat, sprinkle with chopped scallions, and a little more cheese, and serve.

Note: I like the tomato paste that comes packaged in a tube. You can keep it in your fridge, and it lasts for ages!

Excerpted from “Good Enough: A Cookbook” by Leanne Brown, illustrations by Allison Gore. Workman Publishing Copyright 2022.
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