Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. That means five ingredients or fewer — not including water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (like oil and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Psst, did you hear we're coming out with a cookbook? We're coming out with a cookbook!
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Arguably the simplest pasta sauce is that jar of marinara you grab from the pantry — and if you're wondering which brand is best, of course we have thoughts on that — but lately, there's another sauce that I've been turning to on weeknights.
All you have to do is reach for a different jar: marinated artichokes.
These don't advertise themselves as pasta sauce because, technically speaking, they're not. But with a few minutes of prep — and by a few, I mean a few — they turn into just that. Confidently vegetal and tangy, with a whisper of richness.
In other words? Exactly what I'm craving right now, as we're less than two weeks out from spring.
The marinade depends on the brand, but any 12-ounce jar will do the trick. Expect oil and vinegar and just enough spices to turn up the corners of your mouth, not unlike the house vinaigrette at a pizza joint slash sports bar.
Marinated, past tense, means the hard work is already accomplished. The artichokes have been wrangled into quarters. The marinade has been measured and mixed. The goodness has been soaked up like sunshine on a June afternoon. Which is why you could drain the jar, throw the artichokes on a cheese plate, and call it a day.
But we're not going to do that.
No, instead, some artichokes will get slivered, a meaty-chewy topping for our forks to chase after with each bite. The rest we'll purée with a big splash of marinade, yielding a creamy, silky, intensely artichoke-y pasta sauce.
Err on the side of too thick versus too thin in the food processor. You can always add salty-starchy pasta water or more marinade to get the consistency right, keeping in mind that it'll thicken as it sits.
The only question is: What shape will you choose? I like a chunky monkey, say rigatoni or penne, something with tunnels for the sauce to burrow into. But as with marinara, as with any pantry pasta, the best shape is the one that's already in your kitchen. Go look.
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Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
- 1 (12-ounce) jar quartered marinated artichoke hearts
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 pound rigatoni (or another short pasta)
- Freshly grated Parmesan
- Red pepper flakes
- Set a pot of water over high heat to come to a boil.
- Meanwhile, set a sieve over a bowl, then pour in the whole jar of artichoke hearts. Fill a 1/2-cup measure with artichokes and set those aside. Add the rest of the artichokes to a food processor, along with 1/4 cup of their marinade. Purée until smooth, adding more marinade if you'd like. Season with salt to taste. Transfer to a bowl.
- When the water is boiling, generously season it with salt. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to the package instructions.
- While that's cooking, halve the reserved artichokes lengthwise.
- Use a spider or slotted spoon to transfer the hot pasta to the artichoke purée. Sprinkle with Parm and pepper flakes and toss. Add pasta water if needed. Top with the artichoke slivers, more red pepper flakes, and more Parm.