Three of my favorite simple pasta dishes do not require red sauce (or cream sauce). These are easy to make and perfect for weekday nights. As with all recipes with few ingredients, quality is key. I urge you to buy good pasta like Barilla or De Cecco at the very least, good extra virgin olive oil, and a chunk of Italian Parmigano-Reggiano that you grate on top (none of that pre-grated stuff).
1 ) Pasta with tuna
Cook pasta according to directions. This works well with spaghetti or penne. Once the pasta is done al dente, drain and then toss in a pan. Add in a can of tuna packed in olive oil and add more olive oil. Add in a can of tuna packed in olive oil. Mix well. Grate fresh black pepper on top. Serve. Have fresh parmigano on hand so each person can grate on top of their own plate. Optional: If you want to mix it up, you can also saute yellow or brown onions while the pasta is cooking and mix it in when you add the tuna. We usually use a brand called “As do Mar” from Portugal and distributed by an Italian company. It’s a high-quality product but expensive so don’t use it for regular tuna sandwiches.
Above: Linguine cacio pepe con pancetta
2 ) Cacio e Pepe (or pasta with pecorino and black pepper)
Sounds too simple, right? All you need is pasta, fresh black pepper, extra virgin olive oil, salt and a good pecorino cheese. Like parmigiano, pecorino is a hard, salty Italian cheese, suitable primarily for grating. It has a distinct flavor that is different from parmigano.
3 ) Pasta aglio, olio e peperoncino (pasta with garlic, oil, and peperoncino)
Cook pasta according to directions. While the pasta is cooking, slice a clove of garlic and saute with olive oil until the garlic is yellow/brown. (Important: Watch the garlic because overcooking garlic will make it bitter.) Add in the chopped peperoncino. We have a few different hot dried chili peppers on hand but I do prefer ones from Italy. You can use one peperoncino unless you like it hotter.
When the pasta is ready, pour it in the saucepan with the hot oil and saute it for about one minute to coat it with the oil. That’s it! Parmigiano is optional.