June 9, 2013

One-Pan Pasta

This is my new favorite weeknight pasta dinner. It is so beautifully simple and so versatile. I got the idea and the technique but did not love the actual ingredients in one of the latest issues of Martha Stewart Living. The original recipe called for pasta, tomatoes, the onion and garlic, fresh basil, and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. I did that, but even though I enjoy spicy food sometimes, it was just too much. The spice was distracting, and that was disappointing. (And poor Willem, since I hadn't even considered him when throwing in all those red pepper flakes. Partway through the meal, after shoveling in his pasta for a while, fussed, "My mouth is buggin'!" as he flapped uselessly at his open mouth. So I learned my lesson there. Good thing he's such a good sport.)

But the reason the recipe was such a jackpot regardless of the red pepper flakes was it had this awesome creamy/brothy sauce to it, but with no cream or broth in it, just a result of the cooked down water and the garlic and little bit of oil. It had a great depth, a richness that qualified it as a good hearty bowl of pasta for dinner. The skinny onions were also magnificent, just a touch of tooth left to them having been simmered in all the other goodness. 

I very soon made it again, and used the same amount of pasta, kept the cherry tomatoes and the onion and the garlic since those seemed like perfect base ingredients, and then, since I wasn't feeling full of really creative ideas that night, I added just a drained jar of artichoke hearts. I left out the flakes but kept the amounts of oil and water the same and used the technique of putting it all in my favorite big straight-sided skillet that I use nearly every day all at once and then cooking it all at a steady boil for a few minutes. 

It was perfect the second time. I think I'd go for two jars of artichokes next time since they were so good and were a little too few and far between. You could use any pasta shape, but I like not using a long variety since it makes the stirring in the pan easier and things integrate better. The tomatoes could definitely be canned ones. We were brainstorming about other goodies that could be thrown in at the beginning depending on what you had or felt like-- asparagus, sliced diagonally in 1- or 2-inch pieces, beans, peas, corn, or lots of other veggies, olives... we could easily eat this every week and not get tired of it in all its simplicity for a long while.

One-Pan Pasta 
adapted from Martha Stewart Living

12 oz. pasta
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved, or can of diced or equivalent
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 jars artichoke hearts or other ingredient(s) based on taste (olives, other veggies)
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 T olive oil
2 t salt 
1/4 t pepper
4 1/2 C water
Parmesan cheese for the table

Put everything except Parmesan in large straight-sided skillet. Bring to boil over high heat. Boil, stirring frequently, until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated and there is a sauciness to it-- about 9 minutes. 

At the table, drizzle with additional olive oil and grate Parmesan over it.

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