Pantry pasta

16 Mar

One of my go-to meals for days I haven’t made it to the store in a while, haven’t bothered to plan anything, or just don’t particularly feel like going to a lot of effort to make dinner, is a variation on a dish Mark Bittman wrote about in his column in the NY Times. Pantry pasta, as I think of it,  is easy, flexible, and doesn’t require any advance planning. (Assuming you are willing to stock your pantry with things like sardines, which is the kind of person I have become. No judgment, please.)

The essentials ingredients for my version of pantry pasta are: pasta, sardines, and garlic. From there, I throw in whatever additional ingredients I have on hand that I think might be good. Lemon, capers, and Parmesan cheese are all safe bets. If I have fresh veggies I will include them as well (I’ve made variants with asparagus, brussels sprouts, and spinach – all with success). Bittman uses onion and breadcrumbs in his original recipe. Onion is good, but frankly often I am so lazy I don’t feel like peeling and chopping an onion so I skip it. I also skip the breadcrumbs since I tend to use brown rice pasta and make this a gluten-free meal. Parsley, if you have it on hand, takes the whole thing to another level. When I buy fresh herbs for a specific recipe, I usually have leftovers that languish and eventually rot unused in my fridge unless I find places to add them in, which is one reason why I love recipes like this that can be cooked at the end of the week and act as a catch-all for the leftover ingredients I’ve accumulated.

Here’s what I had on hand tonight:

Sardines, capers, Jovial brown rice pasta (a fantastic gluten-free pasta), spinach, parsley, garlic, lemon, and some Parmesan.

My preparation method for this recipe is to give whatever needs a chop a rough once over while the water boils (tonight that was the spinach and parsley) then, after I put the pasta in the water, I let the sardines and a little oil heat up in a pan, add crushed garlic, throw in the spinach and some capers, squeeze some lemon on top and mix that all around for a few minutes until the pasta is ready. After the pasta is drained I put it all in the pan together, add the parsley, grate a little cheese on top, toss it a few times and serve it up.

I’m realizing as I type this that a few turns of the pepper grinder might have made it even better. But no matter, tonight’s version hit the spot.

It was warm enough in Minneapolis today that I had several windows open into the evening. Just as I finished cooking and was sitting down to eat, I heard some neighbors leaving the building exclaim, “Mmm, smell that? What is it? It smells SO GOOD!” They may have been talking about someone else’s dinner, but I doubt it.

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2 Responses to “Pantry pasta”

  1. Lauren March 16, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

    i always have these things on hand – minus the sardines. i could remedy that. you have inspired me to keep sardines. i tried one at the bristol and they are very good. i’m not sure why i was surprised considering the fact that i love anything briny and salty.

  2. zenmaiden March 17, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    This sounds yummy. I have never had a caper that I know of. But by your picture, it looks like I can find them in the store near the olives?

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