Mindblowingly simple coconut sauce: 3 ingredients to weeknight bliss
This spaghetti was born on a “why-isn’t-it-Friday” Monday, inspired by our hands down favourite Samoan food, palusami (ok, maybe a close tie with the pina coladas with freshly made coconut cream). Our friends’ Lonely Planet guide described palusami as “calorie bombs” of coconut cream and we knew we had to try them. Fortunately, we were lucky enough to enjoy these creamy parcels made the Samoan way – wrapped in fresh taro leaves, then banana and breadfruit leaves, and placed atop some taro root that roasted in red hot stones covered with a motherload of banana leaves (all part of an umu). You should have seen the four of us descend upon the deliciously ugly, curdled, almost cheese-like palusami, with hunks of roasted taro. We cleaned up every last drop within minutes, after a somewhat hesitant start.
Since taro leaves and fresh coconut cream is a little hard to come by in Australia, and an umu is definitely not a weeknight sort of a meal for the average 9-5er living in an apartment, I was keen to make something with similar flavours. Lazily. All you do is finely dice a large onion (or 2 small), pour over a 400ml can of coconut cream, add salt to your taste, bring to a boil then simmer to thicken slightly. Crush the onions slightly with a masher to
soothe your impatience release more of their flavour.
Interestingly the sauce doesn’t curdle like it did with fresh coconut cream, but for presentation purposes, I consider this to be a bit of a bonus, even if the result doesn’t taste quite so transcendental.
What could you possibly use this amazing sauce on? Aside from drowning some spaghetti and spinach in it you mean? Well, we had the leftover salty oniony coconut cream cooked and drizzled over our fish while we were in Samoa (highly recommended), so chicken or tofu would love it too (or Quorn, which I’m growing worryingly addicted to on this damned low nickel diet). You could easily replace spaghetti with rice noodles or baby spinach with large punchy basil leaves. Or tip it over rice and veges. If you find yourself with a pool of it on your plate and aren’t a licker, deploy some crusty bread for mopping it up.
It’s time for a confession about pasta too: I like mine slightly overcooked. There, I said it. Not canned spaghetti mush levels of overcooked, but definitely a leap hop and minute past al dente. Judge away, but I have a real aversion to al dente, unless it’s fancy pasta or fresh pasta, which is definitely no longer a Monday evening endeavour.
Spaghetti with salty coconut sauce & spinach
Serves 3-4, remembering it is quite rich, even though it doesn’t look that way
- 250-300g spaghetti (half a standard 500g packet if you’re in NZ or Australia)
- 2 handfuls baby spinach
- coconut sauce (see text in bold above)
- optional: freshly ground black and/or white pepper to serve
Cook pasta* to your preferred firmness, drain in a colander, set aside.
Make coconut sauce (in the same pasta saucepan is fine). Once it’s been simmering for a few minutes, or until the onion is softened, add the pasta back to the pan, along with the spinach. Stir everything to coat the pasta and just wilt the spinach, then taste and salt further if necessary before serving. I realised after I took this photo it’s better to serve this in shallow bowls. Take note!
Enjoy with a few cracks from your pepper grinder if you like, otherwise, enjoy! If you feel there’s too much sauce, you can drain some off, and refrigerate for another meal. I kinda like it borderline soupy though.
*Confession number 2: I almost never use bucketloads of water to cook my pasta, and once I put the pasta in, turn the heat down to low and simmer the pasta, covered, just stirring every now and then. I feel like this saves energy and works perfectly fine in this particular dish. Feel free to keep tsking.