In northern Norway fruits and vegetables don’t come cheap and carrots are sold in kilogram bags. This did not go over well with me last summer as a hungry veggie loving traveler on a budget. The weight of our food bag would often be the cause of a few disagreements during our trip – I needed vegetables and I was sneaking in bags of carrots to get me through. It didn’t last long before Matt caught on, and since I was the one carrying the bag, it wasn’t really working out in my favor either.
We ate pasta twice a day almost all summer long. I’m not even exaggerating a little bit. I thought, after a week or two, that I would eventually get sick of it but the crazy thing is I never did. I would daydream about sandwiches and salads and anything else that wasn’t a plate of hot carbs, but when it started getting close to lunch time, a big bowl of pasta was the most satisfying thing I could think of (that and maybe a few carrot sticks). I kept olive oil and herbamare in my tiny portable pantry and a salty, oily pasta dish was what our hungry camper dreams were made of .
Pasta is probably the most well known comfort food out there, and for me there is nothing better than a simple bowl of salty spaghetti. It reminds me of moments under the rain sheltered by our tent, slurping up pasta with a spork, the steam fogging up my glasses but also warming my chilled fingers. Talk about finding ultimate comfort in good food.
When you find yourself back in a working kitchen with a stocked pantry, I guess you can allow yourself to get little more creative. This sauce is inspired by one of my favorites dips, craving it one night but finding nothing good worth dunking but a bag of spaghetti. The sauce is creamy and smoky and just a little spicy. The recipe makes a little more than enough for two, so you can really drown your pasta in it, or like me, eat the leftovers with a spoon. I love serving it with a big salad of shaved fennel, arugula and dukkah. But, if you’re in a pinch, carrot sticks will do just fine.
Smoky Tomato Almond Pasta Sauce
I’m a spaghetti girl to the end, but feel free to use whatever pasta you want here. I usually opt for spelt or kamut spaghetti, but this brand does make a satisfying gluten free version as well. Smoked paprika will change your life in the kitchen, so if you can find some near you it’s definitely worth the search, if not regular paprika will do just fine. You can also use whole almonds instead of almond meal, but the sauce will be much more like a pesto than a creamy sauce, both are good options in my opinion.
Wine optional, fork + spoon mandatory. Twirl, slurp and enjoy x
Serves 2. Vegan + Gluten Free.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 roasted red pepper, homemade or storebought – roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup ground almonds (almond meal)
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Pinch of red chili flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 398ml can fire roasted tomatoes
- Pasta of choice for two
What to do
Heat olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add in onions and garlic and sauté until soft. Add roasted red pepper, ground almonds, parsley, paprika, chili and salt and stir to combine – the mixture will look like a paste.
Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the almonds are fragrant and toasty, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Add mixture to a blender with tomatoes and blend until smooth, adding a drizzle of olive oil if needed.
Return the now smooth sauce to a sauce pan and simmer until pasta is ready, taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
Cook pasta following package instructions. Add a bit of the starchy pasta water to thin out the sauce towards the end of cooking – if needed.
Serve with a little extra fresh parsley, ground almonds and a drizzle of olive oil.