Around 1750 the Earl of Sandwich put some meat between two slices of bread and gave fast food a good name. It was several hundred years before American ingenuity came along to ruin its reputation.
But fast food doesn't have to mean a hapless piece of meat or produce that's been fried to a frazzle, wrapped in layers of paper and plastic and sold for the cheapest possible price. Fast food can be made from scratch, served with pride and consumed with pleasure. The following recipes, a few of our favorites, prove the point.
The Sauce Solution
If I had my way, upon coming home from work I'd have a glass of wine and putter around the kitchen putting together a perfect little dinner. Then, around 9 or 9:30, we'd sit down and eat.
But the Reluctant Gourmet, to whom I am married, has other ideas. Given a choice between a great meal at 9 and a mediocre one at 7, he'll choose the latter every time. At our house, meals have become a compromise between the easy and the edible.
One trick I've discovered is to keep my freezer filled with really savory sausages. When I walk in the door, I throw the sausages into the microwave where they thaw (it takes about four minutes to melt a pound of sausages), and then put some water on to boil. The sausages are already seasoned, so it doesn't take much more than a few canned tomatoes to turn them into sauce, and by the time the pasta's cooked, the sauce is ready.
This makes the RG happy, because it's very quick. And it makes me happy because it tastes very good.
EASY PASTA SAUCE
1 tablespoon olive oil, about
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound well-flavored Italian sausages, cut in halves
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add and saute onion until translucent. Add garlic.
Squeeze sausage meat out of casings into skillet. Crumble and saute briefly until meat loses red color. Add tomato sauce and tomatoes with liquid. Simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over hot pasta and sprinkle with coarsely shredded Parmesan cheese. Makes 4 servings.
Note: Any good sausage will do, but the better the sausage, the better the sauce. I especially like Jody Maroni pumate and pine-nut sausage in this dish. Mrs. Gooch Italian turkey sausage also works very well--and it makes a nice low-fat dinner.