The Art of Throwing Stuff Together When Cooking

For the non-cook who wants to cook

Photographed by Brittany Bennett

Around a marble table in an Italian cooking class, our chef shoves two extra tablespoons of butter off her knife and into the saucepan. Her eyes pan us, her students, for reactions and then she shrugs as if to say, “What the hell.” It’s insinuated that when making gorgonzola sauce for a table of more than 10, a little dollop more of fat can’t hurt.  

An hour and no clean plates later, her detour from the age-old Italian recipe was not apparent. Over more sauces with a little bit of zucchini and a lot a bit of tomato thrown in, it seemed that the art of cooking in this kitchen was really the art of throwing shit together. Which anyone, even the lazy home chef suddenly inspired after binge-watching viral food tutorials, can do. At least to start.

Don’t fear burnt toast. Fear the Seamless statement on your credit card bill. Turn on the oven, crack a cookbook, and wrap into an apron. We believe the entrance to cooking starts with creativity and knowledge of technique and flavor. Making an Asian stir-fry? You’ll probably want garlic, ginger, sesame seeds, and soy sauce around. If you’ve seen a movie where someone is preparing sauce, you know the consensus: It needs a little more salt. Salt is a flavor enhancer. Keep it within arm's reach of pots and pans. If you have a ton of ingredients laying around, combine them, and see what happens.

It’s also okay to venture from the path the recipe paved. Pick up techniques and pairings as inspiration and whip up a little something-something of your own. Math and ratios are significant in cooking (especially when baking), but experimentation can be education. So get your hands on some ingredients, see what happens, correct mistakes with recipe research, and move on. It is then that you’ll start to experience the joy of cooking.

Begin with something simple like sauce. Gather whatever produce calls to you. Whatever you want to slather over pasta or bake eggs into. Once you’ve successfully filled your stomach with your own creation and your friends have asked for seconds, you’ll start seeing your kitchen as more of a lab than a room.

Follow your gut and get cooking. Below is a recipe that can start your journey.

Basic Tomato Sauce Egg Bake

Ingredients:
About a tablespoon of olive oil
Half of a large onion, diced
A few pinches of smoked paprika
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
A bunch of tomatoes, quartered and peeled
Salt and pepper
6-8 eggs
Parmesan cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Pour the olive oil into a deep saucepan over medium-high heat. Add diced onions and stir until they begin to become translucent. Stir in the paprika until onions are coated. Note: If you have other vegetables, like carrots or peppers, looking lonely in your vegetable bowl, you can toss them in and cook until tender.

Add minced garlic and stir with a wooden spoon until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Dump a heap of tomatoes into the pot. Rain salt and pepper over them and stir together. Reduce heat to medium and let it simmer. The tomatoes will break down and release juices. The longer they simmer, the thicker the sauce will get. Check for flavor. Add more salt and pepper. Stir and cover to let thicken, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Spread sauce in a baking dish. Crack eggs into the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, or until eggs are set.

Freshly grate parmesan cheese over eggs, slice, and enjoy!