Cooking pasta directly in the sauce—rather than boiling the noodles first in water, then saucing them—is easier and produces more flavorful pasta because it absorbs the sauce instead of just water. Try it with our one-pot simple capellini with smoked paprika and olives, which is inspired by Catalan fideuà, a paella-like dish. Or for an even more robust version, try the anchovy, caper and roasted red pepper variation.
Be sure to select diced tomatoes, not crushed, pureed, whole or sauce. Diced tomatoes have a better texture for this dish; they also have the correct moisture content for cooking the pasta. Other products can leave the capellini undercooked. When selecting the pasta, stick with basic brands; high-end pastas with a rough, floury appearance release too much starch during cooking. That’s fine when cooked in ample water but not when cooked in the sauce.
Stir the pasta often during cooking. The limited volume of water makes it easier for the pasta to stick to the bottom. Also, stir constantly after adding the garlic and smoked paprika (or anchovies and garlic). They develop deeper flavor from the brief stint in the hot oil, but also can easily burn and turn acrid.
Cooking pasta directly in the sauce is an easy way to build deeper flavor in a dish; the noodles absorb sauce rather than just water. We start by browning any aromatics or blooming any seasonings in oil. We then stir in any remaining ingredients, along with a spare amount of water and the pasta. This works with either fresh or canned diced tomatoes, simply requiring adjustment to the liquid added—add more water if using fresh tomatoes, less for canned tomatoes with juices.
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