Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Making a Pasta Dinner: Demystified
What I really love about cooking pasta for dinner is that recipes aren't necessary. I'm a recipe lovin' gal, but sometimes you just don't feel like walking back and forth, measuring things and reading a recipe. Sometimes, you just want to wing it. Also, it very simple. Most pastas cook in about 6-8 minutes so if you start cooking your pasta while prepping the other ingredients, you can have dinner on the table in about 10-15 minutes.
Incorporate whatever you have a hankering for: meat, veggies, herbs, cheese. I'll give you my basic pasta dinner formula, then the ingredients I used to make the deliciousness seen above and to the left.
1. Start with a pan on medium with about a tbsp olive oil. Add onions and garlic and cook for about 1-2 minutes.
2. If cooking meat, add this now. Cook most of the way through and drain for sausage/ground meats. Cook all the way through for chicken, or use cooked chicken.
3. Start cooking pasta in pot according to package directions. Salt the pasta, but oil isn't necessary in the pasta water.
4. Add veggies to sauce based on how long it takes to cook then, and how much you would like them cooked. Cut vegetables the same size for routine cooking times. Salt and pepper and add dried herbs such as thyme, oregano, and red pepper flakes.
5. Add some wine for flavor (optional step). Red wine goes great with pasta, I typically use something dryer because that's what I like to drink. When the pan is starting to dry out from cooking the veggies, add the wine and let simmer for a little while.
6. Add sauce at the end, tomato-based, cream, pesto, whatever suits your fancy. Use something store bought, or make your own by simply adding in canned tomatoes, or cream/milk, or both! Some folks use cream, but due to the health factor, I just can't. I typically add in a bit of milk at the end, depending on if I think more liquid is needed. Salt and pepper again, to taste.
7. Finish with some fresh herbs: italian parsley or basil are both great. If you've got wee tomatoes, I suggest throwing a few in right at the end, just enough to warm them. They add another texture to the dish and burst with flavor.
It's really that simple. Also, remember the pasta cooking NEVER and ALWAYS. NEVER rinse your pasta. This makes it difficult for sauce to stick to the pasta. In fact, if you add a little pasta water in to the sauce, it'll help it to coat the pasta, which brings me to the always. ALWAYS toss your pasta in the sauce before serving and coat thoroughly to ensure pasta sticks to sauce. An alternative, we'll call this ALWAYS PLAN B is to at least put a little olive oil on the pasta to keep it from sticking and serve pasta on the side.
And now, the ingredients of my deliciousness, in order of entry into the dish:
Buitoni Whole Wheat Tortellini, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Onions, Garlic, Salt, Pepper, Mushrooms, Oregano, Thyme, Red Wine (about a cup), Sun-dried Tomato Pesto (store bought, from Whole Foods), parsley, fresh tomatoes.
Use my idea, or come up with your own. (And by the way, making pesto couldn't be simpler. Typical pesto is pinenuts, basil, parmesan cheese, and olive oil, but substitute any nut and herb and make your own combo. Freeze leftovers in an icecube tray, then pop out the cubes and put them in a plastic bag.)