Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pasta out of the Frig and Pantry

Boil the pasta, chop and cook whatever veg.  Dinner for one is served.

 As a young cook, I would marvel at my mother's ability to walk into a kitchen and come out with something good to eat.   While this doesn't sound like such a feat (there are many accomplished cooks in the world), she managed it when there didn't appear to be any food (that I could see) in there.  Well, of course there were milk, eggs and cheese in the frig.   In fact, there were often fresh eggs from her hens. There were root vegetables on the counter.  The deep freeze held fish she and my dad had caught and cartons of last summer's vegetables.  In the closet were shelves brimming with quart jars of canned tomatoes,  4oz jars of crab apple jelly, various sized containers of figs, as well as odds and ends -- batches of canning she'd done when someone had brought her half a bushel of something or other about to go bad.
Mom and nephew Michael

Last year, I read and reviewed a book called Lunch in Paris; A Love Story with Recipes  by Elizabeth Bard (the paperback version has come out recently), which is a memoir about an American  woman who falls in love with (eventually marries) a Frenchman named Gwendal.  Full of sweet, not-too-long-ago stories, each vignette ends with a recipe. One I  particularly liked:  Gwendal (who cooked for just himself often) was notorious for rummaging in the frig and coming up with a tasty pasta dish. All this when it looked like there was simply nothing to eat and a run for take-out must be attempted no matter the weather or time.

I tried my hand at Gwendal's pasta (blogged it once) and continue to do so because it quickly morphs into my pasta and will soon be yours.  See what you think. You, too, can learn to look around, grab a few things, and cook your dinner out of what you have.  Just like my mom or Gwendal.  Julia Child would say, "Have the courage of your convictions..."  and go for it.

Pasta out of What's in Your Frig and Pantry serves 1
      Set the table, fix your drink,  and light the candle before you begin.

1. First, set your small (4-6 qt) stockpot to boiling with 2-4qts of water and a little salt and pepper.   Cook your 1/4# whole wheat pasta and, while it's cooking...
 2.  In a deep, large saute pan, cook until about half-way done  
  •  2 pieces of bacon, chopped or 1/4 c chopped ham*

3. Then add
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 4 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch baby broccoli, "   "

    4. Meantime: check your pasta.  If it's nearly done, drain it, saving a 1/2 c pasta water for sauce.)
    5. Cook  above vegetables until softened and then add
    • 3-4 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped or a 15 ounce can of chopped tomatoes
    • 1/4 c mixed chopped fresh parsley and basil (or 1 t each dry oregano and basil)
    • fresh ground pepper to taste
    • kosher salt   to taste
    6. Let the sauce cook down for 3-5 minutes.  Dust with a little more ground pepper.   If you haven't drained the pasta yet, do so now, and add the half-cup pasta water to the sauce if it seems thick.  Fork up some pasta into your bowl,  top with a big ladle of sauce and then add some
    • Parmesan cheese,  coarsely grated    

    I  also like this topped with a few chopped fresh herbs if you have any. Parsley and basil are nice, but nearly any fresh herb would do.  Finely minced rosemary you might want to cook a bit in the sauce.

    Nearly instant dinner
    *Solo Cooks's Note: 
    • You could use the vegetables you have and skip the bacon if you have none. 
    • You could add chopped leftover chicken (wait til the very end)
    • Throw in that bit of Chinese shrimp or tofu from take-out or...
    • Skip the meat and cheese entirely for a vegan feast.
    • A few chopped olives of any sort are nice
    • Artichokes?  Why not?  Asparagus--surely 
    • Read Elizabeth's blog
    Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,


    1. So true! As a kid my Mother will pull together a meal out of what seemed like an empty fridge, how??? I've done that a couple of times and my hubby has always been most impressed! Makes you more creative.

    2. I'll admit it probably takes practice! But it's also a conservative thing to do...waste not, want not, etc. At the price of food, we can't afford to leave anything to rot. Sometimes those grab and cook nights produce meals we have again and again. I once made a quiche out of leftover chicken livers and mushrooms and BON APPETIT published the "recipe." Never know. BTW, we are in the process of moving (to St. Paul, MN), so I'll be on and off. Thanks for reading:)


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