Stock pantry, refrigerator, freezer for fast pastas

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.

Tribune News Service photo

Pantry Pasta

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.

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