Friday, February 6, 2009

Not-so-solitary spaghetti

Now that the baby has morphed into a toddler, my secret single spaghetti has become pasta with a side of potty talk. There's not really much you can do to put a positive hipster spin on that one, but I have taught the child to spin and slurp spaghetti, which delights me and horrifies my husband. (EDITED TO ADD: At lunch today, he taught her to drape spaghetti over her forearm and then nibble it off, so I've got nothing.)

When W. is at class late, the baby and I put together a quick pasta, as a team. She cuts the butter with a butter knife, then picks it up and gnaws on the stick when she thinks I'm not looking. I heat the water and chop garlic, herbs, and whatever veggie we have on hand. She tosses ingredients into the pan, we stir together.

And in the rush to prep quickly with a not-so-helpful helper, I've hit on a formula for awfully good pasta that uses what you've got:

Fast anything-goes pasta

Put a pot of water on to boil for pasta. Don't forget to salt it, liberally. Prep your ingredients while you wait for it to boil. When the water is ready, dump in a half pound of pasta and begin to make your sauce.

Put the following in a large saucepan and heat on medium low:

a couple cloves garlic, minced
a couple tablespoons parsley (or other herbs)
a small shake red chili flakes
a couple glugs olive oil (or a mixture of olive oil and butter to equal a couple tablespoons)

When the garlic is sizzling, add about a 1/4 cup of chicken broth. (I freeze my homemade stock in ice cube trays, and just throw in three cubes.) Turn up heat to medium, bring to a simmer, and add some sort of protein.

I like to do one of the following:
garbanzo beans
white beans
slivered almonds
slivered salami
pine nuts

A couple minutes before the pasta is done, toss a vegetable in the boiling water (broccoli florets; chicory, spinach, kale, or chard ribbons; small potato cubes; whatever). Or you can roast a vegetable in the oven by tossing with olive oil and salt and blasting it at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes. Obviously, if you do this, you need to start the roasting process at the beginning of your prep.

Drain pasta when it's very very al dente, toss with sauce (and roasted veggies if you are going that route). Continue to simmer a minute or so, until pasta is done and sauce is largely absorbed. I like mine a little juicy.

Top with cheese. Finely grated parm or pecorino romano are good, as are aged cheddar, blue cheese, feta...
The photos show a broccoli/almond spaghetti and a roasted cauliflower/garbanzo fusilli, but this is one of those recipes that are born of that delicate balance between what sounds good and what is in the fridge. It is often delicious, but I've had my failures--frozen stir fry mix plus blue cheese anyone?

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