I make a lot of pasta, and when I use a recipe, I always try to post it with photos. What you don’t get to see, dear readers, is the behind-the-scenes magic that occurs when it’s 5:30 on a weeknight, I’m starving, and I’ve already put on my pajamas. In these situations, there’s only one thing to do – make something happen for dinner using only the contents of my pantry.
This may be an acquired skill, but it is certainly something I’m excellent at. I’ve decided to try to start sharing my pantry meals with you, in the hope of inspiring last-minute greatness at your dinner table.
Throw Together Pasta: Version 1
The Veggie Version
1 lb. pasta (whatever you’ve got!)
1 sweet potato, julienned
1 ear leftover corn on the cob, kernels removed
1 medium zucchini, julienned
1 medium onion, sliced thin
5 cloves of garlic
red pepper flakes
If you aren’t good at chopping or you are lazy and don’t have the energy to hunt for your mandolin, feel free to roughly cut the veggies into chunks about the same size as the pasta you’ve chosen. We almost always have penne rigati or rigatoni, and I like to keep everything in the dish as uniform in size as possible.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a handful of salt and the pasta. Cook according to the al dente timing on the box.
In a large pan over medium heat, saute onions and garlic in EVOO until soft. Add sweet potato and cook until it begins to slightly soften. Add the corn, zucchini, and red pepper flakes. Continue to saute veggies until all are heated through and slightly softened, not mushy.
After your pasta is cooked and drained, return it to the large pot. Pour the veggies and pesto over the pasta, toss to combine. Top with any grated/shredded cheese you’ve got on hand.
herbs from your best friend’s garden (we had a large fistful each of parsley and chives)
2 cloves garlic
small handful of raw walnuts
salt, pepper, EVOO
splash of cream
You can make this ahead of time if you must, but part of what makes this pesto so great is that it’s fresh. This is “throw together pesto” – so you’re using what’s on hand…NOT going to the store to buy pignoli (pine nuts) or spending $5 on basil because it’s not fully grown into your garden yet.
I used my rocket blender to make this, but feel free to utilize your food processor or full size blender. Stuff the herbs into the blender, add raw garlic, walnuts, and about 2 tbsp. olive oil. Pulse pesto until it isn’t moving anymore – now you need to add more EVOO. If you have a regular full size blender or a large food processor, you can stream in the oil, otherwise, you will have to stop, add more, check it, and repeat until you get the right consistency. Once the pesto is fully combined, add a lovely splash of cream to loosen it up a bit more and make it a bit richer.
-If you want this meal to be vegan, just omit the cream in the pesto and don’t top your pasta with cheese
-If you want this meal to fall into a raw diet, steam all the veggies and serve over quinoa, smothered with pesto (since it’s a raw sauce)
This pasta turned out great. Kristi and I loved the kick from the red pepper on the veggies and the raw garlic in the pesto. The sweet potato added a lot of body to the dish, the corn added crunchy freshness, and the zucchini was a bright pop of color and clean flavor. You could add curry powder in place of the red pepper if you wanted to give it an Indian twist – curry would mesh really well with the sweet potato.
The point of my throw-together pastas is to try new combinations and not let anything go to waste. Basically, incorporate all your leftover meats and veggies, and make up a sauce that works. If you know the methods for simple sauces, you can create anything you want based on what’s in your pantry. I’ve got another version waiting in the wings (hey, I make it a lot!) so keep your eyes peeled.