“So… how is everyone doing?” In the time of Coronavirus, this phrase has taken on a whole new meaning. It’s the first sentence uttered on every Zoom conference call, business and personal. Once a question asked rhetorically, it now gets very honest responses. As a co-worker remarked on our last Honest to Goodness company Zoom meeting, the age of small talk is over. We are letting it all hang out!
If you want a good indication of how I’m doing on any given day, all you have to do is look at what I’m cooking. Some days, I wake up with the motivation to attempt cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting (when I can find yeast at the store, that is!). Other days, I wearily eat handfuls of Cheerios directly from the box.
Today, I find myself somewhere in between these two extremes as I cook one of my family’s go-to meals: Pantry Pasta. I would define pantry pasta as a pasta dish that can be assembled quickly from mostly long-lived and shelf-stable ingredients that you probably already have on hand. In fact, it seems that Pantry Pasta is having a moment right now as folks try to limit trips to the grocery store. The good news is, Pantry Pasta is endlessly versatile and exceedingly delicious.
Best Family Pasta Dinner
There is no one recipe for pantry pasta, just a few mainstay ingredients to keep in mind: pasta (of course), olive oil, butter, pepper flakes, garlic, anchovies, Parmesan or other hard cheese, capers, and tomato paste. Some recipes even include beans, lemon juice, olives, nuts, breadcrumbs, and more. Therefore, this easy pasta recipe is a great canvas to add any fresh veggies or herbs you have in the fridge as well. The final, and arguably most important, component of pantry pasta is pasta water. Adding a cup or so of this hot, seasoned, starchy liquid to your base ingredients in a pot creates a silky, emulsified sauce that coats each noodle perfectly, earning it the nickname “liquid gold.” So, I implore you, don’t pour your pasta water down the drain!
In short, Pantry Pasta is almost as easy as a box of Annie’s mac and cheese, but exponentially more rewarding. Even on a not-so-good day in quarantine, you will probably be able to muster the motivation to give it a try. I’ve included one of my favorite versions below.
Stay safe and healthy, everyone! We got this!
contributed by Chef Stacey O’Farrell
Pantry Pasta with Broccoli and Lemon
*Can be made with gluten free pasta, but I suggest going with short gluten free noodles like fusilli or rigatoni rather than long noodles like spaghetti.
Yields: 4 servings Prep Time: 5 min Cook Time: 20 min
12 oz. pasta of choice
4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3 oil-packed anchovy fillets or 1 Tbsp. anchovy paste
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 head of broccoli, cut into small florets
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¾ cup finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Set a large pot of water to boil, adding a few generous pinches of salt. Add pasta of choice, stirring well at first to prevent clumping.
While pasta cooks, add a few glugs of olive oil to a heavy pot or dutch oven (best to avoid a saucepan here as you’ll need higher sides to stir the final dish). Set heat to medium. Add your sliced garlic and stir, cooking until just starting to turn golden brown. Add your anchovies or anchovy paste and red pepper flakes. Stir, breaking up anchovies with spoon, until sizzling and starting to dissolve, about 1 minute.
Add your broccoli florets to the pot with garlic and anchovies, stirring to coat. Place lid on the pot to steam the broccoli for about 2 minutes. Remove lid and cook until broccoli is staring to brown in places.
Add 1¼ cups pasta cooking liquid to pot with broccoli and cook, stirring for about 1 minute. Using tongs, add pasta to pot (it should be just shy of al dente, so subtract a minute or two from package instructions), then add butter, ¾ cup Parmesan, and black pepper. Keep tossing and stirring, adding more cooking liquid if needed, until pasta is al dente and sauce is thickened and coats pasta, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat; add lemon zest, and lemon juice.
Divide pasta among bowls; drizzle with oil and top with more Parmesan.