These days, when a trip to the grocery store demands the detailed preparation and stealthy movements of a crown jewel heist, we are all trying to make do with what we have on hand as much as possible.
That’s why I fell hard for this simple recipe for “Wasabi Soy Sauce Pasta.” Think of it as a Japanese version of Italian aglio e olio. It’s equally addictive, too.
It’s from the new “Rika’s Modern Japanese Home Cooking: Simplifying Authentic Recipes” (Rizzoli), of which I received a review copy.
The book is by chef and TV personality Rika Yukimasa, a Japan-native and graduate of the University of California at Berkeley.
While working as a commercial producer for a huge advertising firm in Japan, Yukimasa wrote cookbooks on the side. It wasn’t long before that became her vocation. She’s now written more than 50 cookbooks. She also hosts a popular cooking show, “Dining with the Chef,” which airs in 150 countries, including on PBS in the United States.
Yukimasa makes Japanese home-cooking accessible in dishes that don’t take dozens of ingredients to prepare. In fact, she is not above taking shortcuts such as using instant dashi.
Get ready to salivate over dishes such as “Sashimi with Ponzu Sauce,” “Braised Fish in Miso Sauce,” and “Yoshiko’s Meatloaf Hamburgers.”
Once you boil spaghetti noodles, your “Wasabi Soy Sauce Pasta” is practically done. All you have left to do is saute some garlic in olive oil, then stir in soy sauce, butter, and some of the pasta cooking water.
The sauce will initially look very watery. But once you toss the cooked noodles into it, the sauce gets totally sucked up by the hot pasta. Garnish with basil or shiso leaves, and you’re done. I actually used a mix of shiso and mint from my backyard.
This dish may look plain-Jane, but there’s just something about noodles bathed in butter and oil that never ceases to please. Add in the irresistible salty, caramel, and umami tastes of soy sauce, and it’s even better. The wasabi is actually subtle. It’s not nasal-searing in the least. It provides an unexpected grassy-bitter note of horseradish without a lot of heat. If you like it hotter, by all means, add more wasabi for your desired heat level.
After all, it’s a great way to use up those teeny packets of wasabi languishing in the fridge from one too many supermarket runs for sushi in days of yore.
Wasabi Soy Sauce Pasta
Kosher salt or sea salt for pasta cooking water
12 ounces (340 grams) spaghetti or other pasta
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons wasabi, or more to taste
1/4 cup loosely packed basil leaves or shiso or mint leaves, minced
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Salt to taste. Cook the pasta according to the pack-age instructions, but for 1 minute less than the cooking time indicated. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, in a large pan, sauté the garlic in the olive oil over low heat. Remove from the heat when it becomes fragrant. Mix in the reserved pasta cooking water and cook over high heat, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Stir in the soy sauce, butter, and wasabi. Add the drained pasta and the basil or shiso or mint leaves to the pan and toss to combine. Serve immediately.
Wine recommendation: A fruity, herbaceous dry white like Vermentino di Gallura from Sardinia goes well with wasabi sauce.
Adapted From “Rika’s Modern Japanese Home Cooking”
More Easy Japanese-Inspired Recipes: Lamb Shoulder Steak with Japanese Curry Oil
And: Miso-Glazed Fish
And: Broiled Miso Tofu