Quickie Pasta

Toms, shrimp, garlic and parm to toss with pasta.
Toms, shrimp, garlic and parm to toss with pasta.

Sometimes, you just want pasta – not now, but RIGHT now. This quickie pasta dish satisfies my growling tummy in about 15 minutes. I picked it up watching someone else prepare something similar at a gathering.

Now, those of you who like to follow a recipe might be annoyed with this. I follow recipes more often than not, so I know how you feel. But this is so simple, you really and truly do not need a recipe. Trust me.

First, get your pot of water boiling for the pasta. You can use any kind of pasta. (See? I said it was simple.) Once the water boils, I toss in about two handfuls for a nice bowl of cooked pasta – but I have small hands so you may want a little less.

To measure a serving spaghetti or fettuccini, I aim for a bunch that’s about the diameter of a quarter. Cook according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.

One serving, coming up.

While the pasta cooks, pour a good “lug” of olive oil (as Jamie Oliver is so fond of saying) into a pan. As soon as you can start to smell it, toss in a bunch of grape tomatoes that’s proportionate to your amount of pasta. For one serving, I toss in about a dozen. For three of us, I use the whole pint. No grape tomatoes? No problem. Halve some cherry toms or chop up any other larger variety.

Add some freshly ground pepper and a pinch of sea salt. If you want a vegetarian dish, you can stick with tomatoes and just add some bottled minced garlic for the last 30 seconds of cooking. Or you could add more chopped veggies – zuchinni, peppers, whatever. Either way, just add the drained, cooked pasta to the pan, toss it all up and serve with some parm, feta or asiago.

I keep frozen shrimp on hand for this dish. Tail on, tail off – it’s up to you. Once tomatoes skins start breaking, add about as many shrimp as you have tomatoes to the pan. If they’re pre-cooked, just sauté until they’re heated. If they’re raw, haul the pan off the heat as soon as they turn pink. Either way, add the garlic for the last 30 seconds, then toss in the pasta and serve with cheese. Maybe add a sprinkle of chopped fresh basil, too. Yum.

Quickie pasta topped with parm.
Quickie pasta topped with parm.

You could add chopped, pre-cooked chicken or steak to this little dish, or pretty much anything your heart and taste buds desire. Oooh – a little bacon and corn – wouldn’t that be good.

My one tip for this and all dishes that come together quickly – get all your ingredients together before you turn on a burner. If you’ve got your head in the deep freeze searching for shrimp while your tomatoes sauté, you may well come back to a smoky kitchen. And then it’s not such quickie pasta.

Try it out and let me know what variation makes your mouth water.



Awful Pie

Ok, now that I’ve dazzled you with my Sunday night cooking for the entire week, I want to be perfectly clear that I am not a superhero or a Stepford wife. I produce culinary disasters just like everybody else. Let me tell you about the latest flop.

H is the gardener in the family and I’ve been raving about our sweet carrots, summery beets, and tomatoes from heaven. I do not, however, share his love of beet greens and Swiss chard. Blech.

But he grew those greens, they won’t last as the nights are getting frosty, and I hate waste. So I wanted to find a recipe that H would enjoy and that D and I wouldn’t completely hate. How hard could it be?

Jamie Oliver rocks with Meals in Minutes.

I remembered a delicious spinach feta phyllo pie recipe from Jamie Oliver’s Meals in Minutes cookbook. (I’ll sing Jamie’s high praises in another post – he’s such a passionate advocate for real food, I think he’s my food hero.) I started hunting for a similar recipe that called for beet greens and Swiss chard.

I found one that used puff pastry and looked simple enough. The danger, though, was that it wasn’t precise about volumes. It called for a large bunch of beet greens and a medium bunch of chard. My medium could be your large, so how could I know how much to pick from the garden?

Skeptical, I washed all the greens and chopped the leafy parts as well as the stems. This was labour intensive and while I was doing it, D asked what was for dinner. I told her and she said, “That sounds awful.” I had to agree, but I persevered in the hopes of something half-way tasty in the end. Boy, was I wrong.

I sautéd the greens with zucchini and garlic, mixed them with egg and feta, and dumped it all into the puff pastry. It was already looking kind of pink. Skeptical. I folded the pastry over top, shoved it in the oven, and crossed my fingers.

The most hideous dish I’ve ever made.

The pastry got nice and golden. That’s about the only good thing I can say about it. I served up a slice for each of us, pink juice trailing after each one, and set them on the table. I felt like Brigit Jones serving blue soup.

H sat down and said, “We’d better dig in right away because we want it at its best.” This is when I burst out laughing and said, “Because we sure as hell don’t want it at its worst!”

And I continued to laugh so hard (my out-of-control laugh that’s silent and ridiculous with shoulders shaking, mouth gaping, eyes closed, and tears running) that it took quite a while before I even managed to taste the darn thing. And it tasted…not awful, but not good either.

It was just so hideous, what could I do but laugh?

All in all, here’s my advice to you…make Jamie Oliver’s spinach feta phyllo pie. You’ll love it. His tomato salad is fantastic, too. I hope your laughter while eating it is the normal kind shared around the table with folks you love.


ps – For the record, H liked it. Enough to have more a couple nights later. Chacun son goût.