We all have those hellish days when we can't think of what to make for dinner, have no time to make anything for dinner, or can't don't have the energy to put into making something for dinner. So what does the Mendon Foodie do on those occasions? Well, I'll tell you what I DON'T do: I do not make anything from a box. Have I made food from a box in the past? Yes, I have. And was it absolutely horrible? YES!!!! When I was pregnant with my first child (I have four, which may explain my bad attitude) I had a day when I couldn't face cooking or eating. yet I still had to feed my new hubbie. We were on a tight budget, so what did I do? I fixed a box of Hamburger Helper for my husband. Mind you, I have still to this day never eaten Hamburger Helper. My mother did not make packaged food, either. Well, maybe the occasional side dish, but if you ask me to name anything specifically, I wouldn't be able to. Maybe my sisters could. Anyway, so my husband comes home and looks at the splendid feast I have managed to prepare while only throwing up once and says, "What's this?" And I reply, "Hamburger Helper!" And he replies, "It looks like shit." Then he tastes it, looks at me and says, "Never fix this for me again." I really can't say that I blame him. There has got to be something fast and easy to make that still tastes like real food.
Well there is! And I don't mean any of those annoying Rachel Ray recipes where she runs around her kitchen frenetically trying to make food in 30 minutes just to show you she can. Most people would probably rather slow down and cook at a more leisurely pace so they don't die of an aneurysm. So what do I cook when I don't feel like cooking, don't have time to cook, blah, blah, blah? Pasta!
My family (everyone except me, that is) is Italian. They like to eat pasta. A lot. If I cooked it as often as they want it, I would get so sick of it I would have to throw up. But, in the winter, I probably make it twice a week. Okay, three times. But do I open a jar of red sauce and throw it on? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? NO OF COURSE I DON'T! There are many ways to dress pasta that require little effort, little time, and yet you would still want to actually consume them.There is one trick to getting a pasta dinner on the table fast: the first thing you do is start the water heating for the pasta. Make the sauce while the water comes to a boil. If you clean lettuce when you buy it and keep it wrapped in a towel inside a plastic bag in fridge you can have salad, too. Here is one of my families favorite pasta dishes, adapted from Marcella Hazan.
Dice an onion and saute with four ounces of pancetta and two cloves of minced garlic until the onion is translucent and the pancetta is a little crispy. Drain one can of cannellini beans reserving liquid. Add that can plus one UNDRAINED can to the frying pan. Add some chopped fresh sage and rosemary. (Dried is okay, too.) Season to taste with salt and pepper. If it is too thick, add some more of the bean liquid.
Cook pasta while making the sauce and toss pasta with sauce and top with Parmesan.
The nice thing about this recipe is that you can keep the ingredients on hand and for when you are pressed for time. Pancetta freezes well. It is a nice thing to keep around. This recipe will make enough for about a pound and a half of pasta. You can make it with only one can of beans if you need a smaller amount. I devised this recipe when I still had four kids at home. I'm down to two, so now I make only one pound of pasta.
There are so many other quick pasta recipes that don't involve jarred sauce. I'll try to post some more soon, although I make no promises. It all depends on my mood.