Simple red-sauce recipe for Italian weeknight cooking

On a recent random Tuesday, my partner and I strolled past La Pergoletta, the old-school Italian American restaurant in Los Feliz that’s a staple of the neighborhood. Remarking that we’d lived in the neighborhood for four years but still had yet to eat there, we impulsively walked in for dinner. Expecting a quiet midweek crowd, we were instead greeted by a rowdy mix of 10- and five-top tables and parties going on all around us. We ate Caesar salad, dipped crusty bread in olive oil mixed with balsamic vinaigrette, and shared a bubbling brick of lasagna Bolognese. it was perfect.

As a rice lover who accordingly veers toward Mexican, Southeast Asian or Indian flavors for my go-to comfort food, I often have to remind myself how fun and delicious this type of Italian food can be, a revelation I usually keep to myself to avoid the eye rolls or deadpan stares from literally all of my friends. But, as life is a circle, so too is my adoration of Italian food, and so I’ve been taking my renewed interest in it for a ride all week with some simple Italian-ish weeknight meals from our archives.

It doesn’t get any easier or better than Dawn Perry’s Sheet Pan Sausages With Cherry Tomatoes and Onions. Whether I use sausages from the supermarket or home-made ones from my butcher, they all taste great when roasted with a tangle of onions and bursting cherry tomatoes. Perry calls for serving the sausages and veggies atop a slab of good sourdough bread, but I have to admit more than a couple of times, I’ve stuffed them in a sandwich roll and eaten it fairground-style.

For a more sit-down dinner dish, I go to my Slow-Roasted Salmon With Dill and Lemon Salsa Verde. The salsa verde — the Italian kind, not the Mexican sauce — is made with fresh dill combined with chopped lemon and spiced with fennel and cumin seeds, bolstered with chopped walnuts. You make the salsa while the salmon roasts, then shower it over the top while hot from the oven. I love it served with an arugula salad or on a bed of soft polenta.

And then there’s Danielle Campbell’s Creamy “Alla Amatriciana-Ish” Pasta that takes the classic amateur treatment but uses easier-to-find pancetta — in lieu of guanciale — and enriches the spicy tomato sauce with cream. I pair it with Genevieve Ko’s Buttery Garlic Bread, which lives up to its name and then some. Garlic is simmered slowly in butter until it’s perfumed and sweet, then slathered over crusty Italian bread and toasted until crunchy and aromatic. It’s the sort of instantly gratifying Italian-ish comfort food that everyone loves — and that I have to be reminded of from time to time.

Sheet Pan Sausages With Cherry Tomatoes and Onions

All the cooking for this dish takes place in the oven and couldn’t be easier to prepare for. You can even prep the onions on the baking sheet in advance and refrigerate them for a day so you can throw them directly in the oven when ready to start cooking.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 40 minutes.

Sausages with Cherry Tomatoes and Onions on a sheet pan next to a plate of sliced ​​bread

(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

Slow-Roasted Salmon With Dill and Lemon Salsa Verde

A simple side of salmon gets showered with an Italian-style salsa verde, made with dill, walnuts and lemon, as soon as it comes out of the oven to add brightness to the rich fish. Make the salsa verde up to 1 day in advance and keep chilled until ready to use.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 45 minutes.

A dish of baked salmon topped with dill and lemon

(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

Creamy ‘Alla Amatriciana-Ish’ Pasta

A riff on the Roman classic, this pasta is coated in a thick, rich tomato-and-cream sauce. Use any pasta you like, particularly one with nooks and crannies or hollow insides to catch all the sauce.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 30 minutes.

A hand reaches for red pepper flakes to add to a plate of spaghetti in a tomato sauce

(Danielle Campbell / For The Times)

Buttery Garlic Bread

Inspired by Italian-American red-sauce restaurants, this classic garlic bread starts with a rich garlic butter. The proportions below yield enough to spread on a 1-pound Italian loaf, but you can use a smaller loaf and reserve the remaining garlic butter for future use.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 15 minutes.

Four slices of garlic bread on a wooden cutting board

(Genevieve Ko/Los Angeles Times)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top