Dinner in 15 minutes: easy pasta meals

The first recipe is a basic meal I make around once a month, with variations that depend on my refrigerator contents. I prepare it when I need food fast and I know I won’t be seeing anyone from the outside world for at least 12 hours [the high garlic content is not conducive to social contact]. The best thing about it: your meal takes only as long to make as the pasta takes to cook.

chilli garlic goodness

Recipe #79: Pasta con aglio, olio e pepperoncino [aka “pasta with garlic, oil & chilli”]. Gives 2 decent-sized servings.

You will need:
► 250g long pasta [I like to use papardelle or fettucini]
► 5 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
► 2 large chillis, seeds removed and finely chopped
► good quality olive oil
► salt

To start, half fill a pasta pot with water and add a few good pinches of salt. Bring this to the boil over high heat. Add the pasta and reduce the heat to a medium setting. While the pasta is cooking, you can prepare the other ingredients > remember to stir the pasta as it cooks to stop it from sticking together.

Add a good lug of olive oil [there are no rules!] to a large frying pan over medium heat and add the garlic. Once the garlic starts to sizzle, add the chilli and a good pinch of salt. Cook for a further minute or two – until the garlic begins to turn transparent. Remove from the heat.

When the pasta is cooked (no hardness in the centre), replace the frying pan on a hot hotplate. Ensure the pan has reheated to sizzling temperature, then use tongs to remove the pasta from the pasta pot and place it into the frying pan. Toss the pasta frequently in the pan for about 2 minutes, adding sufficient olive oil to give the pasta a glossy sheen. Taste a strand of pasta and add more salt if needed.

Serve with shaved parmesan or pecorino and a lovely sauvignon blanc.

This recipe has infinite variations – for example, you could try it:

  • with seafood & fresh herbs – before adding the pasta to the sizzling frying pan, add raw seafood (eg. crayfish, dhufish) cut into small pieces [or you can add cooked seafood at the point you add fresh herbs]; if using prawns, you could add these whole. Toss this in the pan for about a minute – until the seafood loses its transparent look – then add the pasta as above.

    Stir in a freshly chopped ‘soft’ herb, such as parsley or coriander > you could even use rocket. Squeeze over some lime and serve quickly, as the seafood will continue to cook after it has been removed from the heat source.

  • with fennel & parsley – add a finely sliced bulb of baby fennel at the same time as the chilli; stir finely chopped parsley through just before serving.

*

I have another recipe that is even more simple than the first one. In fact, it’s so easy that I am almost ashamed to call it a recipe.

Recipe #80: Pesto pasta. With cherry tomatoes and crispy prosciutto. Gives 2 decent-sized servings.

You will need:
► 250g long pasta [I like to use papardelle or fettucini]
► a decent quantity of basil & pine nut pesto [you can make this yourself in a blender: ~100g oven-toasted pinenuts, a good handful each of fresh basil & continental parsley, lots of olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, salt & pepper]
► 12+ cherry tomatoes
► 2 slices of prosciutto
► good quality olive oil (if needed)
► salt
► pepper

Start in the same way as for Recipe #79: half fill a pasta pot with water and add a few good pinches of salt. Bring this to the boil over high heat. Add the pasta and reduce the heat to a medium setting > while you are bringing the water to the boil and cooking the pasta, you can prepare the other ingredients > remember to stir the pasta as it cooks to stop it from sticking together.

To prepare the prosciutto, place the slices on an oven tray, then into a 180°C oven for 5-10 minutes. You want the fat to be translucent and the meat to be browning by the time you remove the slices from the oven. Letting the prosciutto cool on some paper towel for a few minutes will then ensure perfect crispification.

To cook the tomatoes, pour a little olive oil into a small frying pan over medium heat, then add the tomatoes and cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring a couple of times per minute to ensure the heat is distributed evenly across the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes start to look translucent, remove the pan from the heat > you don’t want the tomato skins to split if you can help it (as their insides are likely to ooze out when you stir them through the pasta), but it’s not the end of the world if they do.

When the pasta is cooked (no hardness in the centre), strain it under hot running water. Place the pasta back in the pot, then stir or tong through a couple of large spoonfuls of pesto. Add more pesto and olive oil to ensure an even coating of flavour; sprinkle over salt and pepper to taste. Carefully stir through the tomatoes.

Serve with toasted pine nuts and some shaved parmesan or pepper romano, and lay a slice of the prosciutto over the top of the finished dish. In terms of wine, I would recommend a light grenache.

one of the simplest and most fulfilling pasta dishes you will ever make

This is fabulous comfort food that is somewhere between my calorific recipes and my healthy posts of late. Everything in balance, I say – and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

H 🙂


Addenda of 26 March 2010:

  • The 15 minute timeframe is just a guide – it all depends on the lengths of time taken for the water to boil and the pasta to cook.
  • You can definitely add more raw food content to both of these recipes. You could, for example, stir through some sprouts, fresh baby spinach, tiny broccoli florets or fresh green herbs just prior to serving. Mmm…crunchy delicious!
Advertisements

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Ooo nice recipe. I love really simple and tasty Italian dishes. They may not look the most spectacular but they are always satisfying.

    1. Hannah says:

      I completely agree, Mark. These simple, hearty dishes bring joy to my heart and palate.

      H 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s