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This highly-rated recipe for Penne al'arrabiata calls for frying chilli, garlic and the basil leaves, then removing them from the pan, adding chopped tomatoes, then adding back chilli, garlic and the basil leaves.

What will I lose if I fry them separately: chilli, garlic and the basil leaves on one pan, and tomatoes on the other pan, then combine them? This will obviously be faster, but what's the downside?

3 Answers 3

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The idea is that the oil where you fry the chili, garlic, and basil grabs their flavor and aroma. And then the tomatoes are fried in that flavorful oil, which ends up in a much deeper and tastier flavor overall, as the tomatoes combine with the flavors present in the oil.

If you do it separately the tomatoes won't grab as much flavor from the chili, garlic and basil and you'll get a blander result.

The other question one could ask is about why can't we leave the chili, garlic, and basil in the pan. And the reason for that is that they can burn if you fry them for too long.

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    Yes, but it will be later than otherwise, so you still get less absorption time (in other words, the tomatoes are less time with the flavorful oil)
    – user94746
    Aug 6, 2021 at 10:01
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    And in some recipes you develop ‘fond’, the bits of food that stick to the pan and caramelize that are then worked back into the sauce when you add liquid.
    – Joe
    Aug 6, 2021 at 10:48
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    And that’s why I left it as a comment and not an answer
    – Joe
    Aug 6, 2021 at 16:16
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    Personally, I'd argue that the removal and re-introduction of the chili/garlic/basil in this recipe is a useless step and could be omitted. You're only removing them for less than a minute; what's the point?
    – FuzzyChef
    Aug 6, 2021 at 17:00
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    Yulia: I don't buy it. My advice would be to just cook the garlic/pepper/basil for 60 less seconds, and add the tomatoes straight in. Might not save time, but definitely saves effort.
    – FuzzyChef
    Aug 7, 2021 at 2:11
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I think the flavor difference in this quick condiment will be minimal, and you should do a side-by-side to see if it matters to you. The real downside is you have two pans to clean. So your issue is weighing the gain of speed up front, with time lost of cleaning two pans when you are finished.

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    I wouldn't say that's a huge difference, as you have to take the things out of a pan into something that will get dirty too. In my experience when you do the tomato sauces with calm they are incredibly better. And on the other hand, if you'll rush it along then there will certainly be no noticeable difference between the two versions. For the original version to shine you need to do it slowly. But I totally agree with "try it and see" - you might not care for the difference or not have the time
    – user94746
    Aug 6, 2021 at 10:39
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    @ Paribus Cateris I guess I would not remove anything from the single pan. This is the type of sauce that is meant to be complete in about the time it takes the pasta to cook. I would start my pasta water, toast the aromatics, then add the tomatoes (which will stop any over browning), drop pasta in water, and by the time the pasta is about a minute from done, add it to the sauce to bring it all together...simple and with minimal clean up.
    – moscafj
    Aug 6, 2021 at 10:49
  • @moscafj I would boil water in a kettle, pour it into the pan and put the pasta in it - quicker than boiling water in the pan. Is there nything wrong with my lifehack - maybe I am missing something here, too?
    – Yulia V
    Aug 6, 2021 at 17:44
  • @YuliaV if you have a dedicated kettle and you feel it saves you time....by all means!
    – moscafj
    Aug 6, 2021 at 21:03
  • Yulia's profile says "UK", and here electric kettles are found in almost every kitchen. A big advantage of 230V electrics is that a 2-3kW appliance is convenient, and immersing the element is good for efficiency so it saves time and electricity to use a kettle (with a sensible volume of water in it)
    – Chris H
    Aug 9, 2021 at 15:35
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The downside is needing to wash two pans. That's it. If you're sparing with the amount of oil you use with the tomatoes, there should be no harm to the flavor.

That said, the best way to speed up this recipe is simply to skip the "remove the garlic and basil from the oil" step entirely. That's an unnecessary step. You might want to cook the garlic/basil for 30 seconds less, then dump in the tomatoes. That might not save you that much time -- maybe 1 minute -- but it will certainly save you effort.

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  • Could be a bit more efficient because I can start cooking tomatoes before I start prepping chilli/garlic/basic. Like this, I would be saving time needed for both cooking and prepping chilli/garlic/basic I guess.
    – Yulia V
    Aug 7, 2021 at 6:59

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