tip No. 3: pasta

By Monday, November 16, 2009 ,

Pasta is a working girl's best friend (okay, not that kind of "working" girl) . From my post on November 9, I requested ideas for quick-cooking meals and, being a good sibling, my sister Holley shared with me her go-to, post-work dinner that's quick and delicious. Here's what she wrote: "My quick go-to dinner is bucatini all'amatriciana from "The Italian Country Table" by Lynn Rossetto Kasper. All the ingredients are pantry and fridge staples - dried bucatini or spaghetti, whole canned tomatoes, onions, pancetta, Parmigiano reggiano, and red pepper flakes! The sauce cooks up while the water boils. Yum."

Yum indeed.

The beauty of pasta is that it can be simple (buttered noodles and Parmigiano) or elaborate (agnolotti, ravioli, lasagne, to name a few). For weeknight meals, I go simple by using this equation: pasta (white or whole-wheat) + vegetable (cut small for quick cooking) + protein (diced or minced) + herb/spice (minced for easy incorporation) + dairy = dinner.

Here are some fall/winter combinations that work well together and can be prepped and cooked while the water heats and the pasta is cooking (about 20 minutes, give or take a few). Note: All dishes would start with sautéing a diced onion or a thinly sliced clove of garlic in some olive oil and the final dish should be seasoned with salt and pepper to taste.

Equation 1: Orecchiette + frozen peas/fava beans + diced pancetta + mint + fresh ricotta
Sauté the pancetta until browned; add thawed peas. Stir in cooked pasta and mint; top each serving with a scoop of ricotta.

Equation 2: Penne + broccoli rabe + Italian sausage + chile flakes + Parmigiano reggiano
Sauté sausage until browned, breaking up large pieces with a spoon. Add broccoli rabe (cut into 1-inch pieces) and a pinch of chile flakes and sauté until rabe is crisp-tender. Add cooked pasta with 1/4 cup reserved pasta water. Garnish with Parmigiano.

Equation 3: Rigatoni + squash + cannellini beans + sage/thyme + pecorino Romano
Sauté small cubes of winter squash until just beginning to soften; add herbs and beans (rinsed and drained, if using canned) and cook until heated through; add the cooked pasta and stir to incorporate. Top with pecorino Romano.

Equation 4: Linguine + cauliflower + chicken thighs + rosemary + Parmigiano reggiano
Sauté thin strips of chicken thigh with minced rosemary until thoroughly browned and cooked through. Remove with slotted spoon to a plate. Add cauliflower and sauté until crisp-tender. Return chicken and juices to the pan and stir to incorporate. Toss in the cooked pasta and top with shaves of Parmigiano.

Equation 5: Gemelli + mushrooms + Italian sausage + thyme + cream
Sauté mushrooms until all liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are browned; add sausage and lightly break up pieces with a spoon until browned and cooked through. Add thyme and cream and bring to a hard simmer, scraping up any of the brown bits left on the bottom of the pan. Add cooked pasta and stir to incorporate.

Equation 6: conchiglie + canned whole plum tomatoes + diced bacon + thyme + fresh ricotta
In with the onions or garlic, saute two rashers of bacon until browned and crisp. Add 1 cup of hand-crushed whole canned tomatoes and thyme and saute until liquid begins to reduce; Add cooked pasta and stir to incorporate. Top each serving with a scoop of ricotta.

What's your best pasta equation?

Happy eating, -s.

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  1. My favorite quick after-work pasta: Saute green beans in garlic and olive oil, add cooked whole wheat penne, toasted walnuts, and crumbled gorgonzola cheese and a bit of pasta water. The heat from the pasta melts the cheese and makes a yummy sauce. Super quick and super good!

    Thanks for all the great pasta ideas!

  2. Thanks Anne ... that sounds amazing! Will have to give it a try soon.