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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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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