It is winter, and this means one thing. Grad school application time! Consequently: I am not Eileen. Eileen is studying for tomorrow's GRE. I, by contrast, am John: I have a MicroplaneTM.
Though I don't usually introduce myself to strangers (hello strangers! how are you I am fine!) by pimping out The Latest Kitchen Gadget, our new MicroplaneTM -- courtesy of our neighbors on the second to last day of Hanukkah, according to the electric menorah in the lobby at work -- has pretty much dictated what I've been cooking today. First there was a little (unpictured) snack of croûtes; in the oven there is Delicious Pasta Bake (I Assume).
Delicious pasta bake I assume
one large yellow onion
half a head of garlic
smashed tomatoes from a can unless you're an overachiever
ground cayenne (since I have an unholy affection for spicy pasta)
I'm counting on this to be intensely soporific and send a Certain Someone to bed so she cannot stress about her exam. You have similar exigencies.
Do the obvious: heat your biggest, flattest pan. Get some oil nice and hot while you smash garlic, then dice along with onion and shallot. Cook for longer than you'd like to wait, or until everything has softened to the point of melting under your spoon. Add your smashed tomatoes -- I used canned; they're fine if you add copious salt -- pepper, basil, cayenne, and vermouth.
Note on kitchen staples. It's the shallot and the vermouth that save this sauce from boredom. I used to go to restaurants all the time, taste their sauce, and notice that the thing that convinced me to put on my spendthrift hat was something I couldn't identify, but sorely missed in my own bland sauces. That something turned out to be, by turns, shallot, wine with the alcohol cooked away, or both. Now I always make sure that I have some shallots and dry vermouth on hand. The former can be a bit pricey, but vermouth is totally cheap. It's also useful any time you have a) a sauce; or b) crusty bits on the bottom of a pan. Just toss in some vermouth on high heat, flail away at the crusty bits with a spoon, and you have an Extra Delicious Bonus with your meal.
So we're up to three plugs: MicroplaneTM, shallots, vermouth.
Cook off the alcohol from same and put on water for your pasta. I salted mine pretty severely, since I was having fun with the grinder. We'll see how it goes. Let things bubble on both burners until the pasta is done. Drain and add to sauce. I drastically underestimated the amount of sauce I needed, so I added the remainder of the tomato can with some more salt.
Cheese. I used some parmesan, MicroplaneTMd into tiny strips, along with some mozzarella, cut into long thick slices with a regular cheese knife. Into the baking dish went a layer of pasta, a layer of both cheeses, more pasta, and a lot of cheese to top. Thence everything into the oven at 400F for at least half an hour, and longer if I can stand sitting here smelling delicious dinner without having any. Then we see what's up:
That's what's up. As is always the case, my ugliest food tastes best.