When it’s 6 o’clock and I don’t know what we’re going to have for dinner, I turn to some seasonal vegetable to inspire me to make a quick one-dish pasta supper. The other night asparagus did the trick, along with some fresh mint, a few fresh fava beans I’d cooked up (another night I substituted frozen peas, much simpler and also good), and some garlic and green onions.
But this is more of a basic method than a recipe: take some sliced or chopped vegetables, some type of garlic or onion or both, some minced fresh herbs if you like. If you want more protein, you could add cooked beans, chicken, fish or shellfish.
Saute the vegetables, garlic and onions in a generous amount of olive oil. If you’re using beans or chicken or fish, cook them beforehand and add after your vegetables are nearly as tender as you like them, just to re-heat. Salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, cook your pasta al dente (or however you like it) and drain it, reserving several tablespoons of the cooking water. If you use whole wheat pasta, as I did here, you can feel extra virtuous about your fast supper. (Actually, I like my ratio of veggies-to-pasta to be a little higher on the veggies than it turned out in the photo above.)
Add the cooked pasta to the pan, along with the pasta-cooking water as needed. Some like to use cream here to make a richer dish, and Cathy made a delicious version with leeks, asparagus, and a little half-and-half. You can also add some grated hard cheese, such as parmesano or peccorino, or a soft melty cheese such as Roquefort or chevre for an entirely different flavor.
Add the fresh chopped herbs if you have them (basil is always great, but I really liked the freshness of the mint in this combination) at the end to keep their flavor. Some lemon zest would be good too.
Stir it all together and add more salt if it needs it. After you serve it up you can sprinkle the dish with more fresh herbs or grated cheese or toasted breadcrumbs as they do in the south of Italy. Or nothing at all.