As carbohydrate-heavy as the Thanksgiving meal tends to be, I come off that eating marathon hungry for pasta.
Omitted from the main spread, pasta typically doesn’t show up until the week’s last hurrah with turkey-noodle soup. But we returned home from almost a week away with frozen turkey carcasses and the need for a fast dinner assembled with pantry staples.
Enter pasta. One of my go-to recipes is carbonara, which requires only ingredients I perpetually have in abundance: bacon from the half-hog in our freezer and eggs from our backyard chickens. Plucking a few collard greens from the winter garden improves this dish’s nutritional profile.
For a satisfying dinner that needs no chopping or sautéing, I grab any oil-packed, brine-cured, savory morsel that enjoys permanent status in the refrigerator. Plain-Jane spaghetti becomes almost fancy with sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, capers and toasted pine nuts in a butter sauce enhanced with anchovy paste and red-pepper flakes.
Similar in concept is this “pantry pasta,” courtesy of the Chicago Tribune. I would hazard that mascarpone cheese doesn’t quite qualify as a staple. More common in most households is cream cheese, which can be substituted but will yield a sauce that tends to stiffen up once removed from the heat.
Cook 1/2 pound spaghetti in plenty of well-salted, boiling water until al dente.
Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced; cook for 1 minute. Stir in 1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red bell peppers, drained, rinsed and sliced into strips.
Turn heat to low; stir in 4 ounces mascarpone cheese. Add some hot pasta water to help it melt. Sprinkle on 2 teaspoons capers and fresh or dried thyme or basil to taste.
Drain pasta. Stir it into skillet to coat with sauce. Makes 2 servings.