Few ingredients are as versatile, forgiving, and easy to process as pasta, a pantry staple that effortlessly reaches the dinner table.
Don’t get fooled by all these protein-focused diets. The good qualities of pasta are endless. It is cheap. It’s quick. It delights the palates of all generations. Best of all, it comes with a long list of ingredients, some of which are already in your garden, pantry or freezer. And with the start of the school year, that kind of ease is what every working parent needs.
It only takes a minimum of time and effort to incorporate pasta into dinner programming. You’re guaranteed something comfortable and delicious, and you’ll have leftovers for lunch the next day.
The most important thing to remember is to keep it simple.
Stock your pantry with different types of pasta, then stock the fridge with easy ingredients that you can toss in a pan. Keep jars of pesto, roasted peppers, anchovies, capers, olives, mashed tomatoes and chickpeas on hand. Grow fresh herbs in your garden. Always have lemons in the dispenser drawer and frozen peas in the freezer. Never find yourself without olive oil, a wedge of Parmesan and a head of garlic.
Here are 7 ideas for quick pasta dishes on weekdays:
1. Fresh tomato. Combine the sliced fresh cherry tomatoes, sliced red pepper and minced garlic in a skillet with olive oil. Sauté, then toss with cooked spaghetti and garnish with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.
2. Puttanesca. Sauté a few teaspoons of finely chopped canned anchovies in olive oil with minced garlic and red pepper flakes, add mashed tomatoes and good black olives. Toss with spaghetti. Don’t be afraid of anchovies. They will break down and add an irreplaceable depth of flavor to the dish.
3. Spring pesto. Toss your favorite pasta with store-bought or homemade pesto with lightly sautéed asparagus and chopped peas. Garnish with avocado and garnish with lemon.
4. Lemon. Lemon zest and juice are one of the most underrated pasta accompaniments, and really, it couldn’t be simpler. To the cooked pasta, add a few teaspoons of lemon zest and the juice of one or two lemons. Drizzle with a little olive oil, Parmesan, salt and pepper, and you’re done.
5. Garlic, olive oil and parsley. This kid-friendly pasta is spaghetti mixed with a light sauce of olive oil and minced garlic, and garnished with chopped Italian parsley. Simple and tasty as a single or side dish.
6. Vodka sauce. A classic sauce with crushed tomatoes, minced garlic and red pepper flakes combined with cream and a little vodka. It is traditionally served on penne. You won’t taste the vodka, but you will know that an extra ingredient is there by the pleasant flavor.
7. Be creative. Play with pasta shapes you’ve never tried before. And while these dishes are meatless, it’s quite easy to add grilled or roasted chicken or shrimp, or even prepared meatballs to them.
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