Whatever's In The Fridge (And Pantry) Pasta
If you have pasta and salt and olive oil in the pantry, you have something to eat. If you have a few flavor boosters like garlic and anchovies and Herby Butter, even better. And if you have just one or two quick-cooking items in the fridge to get rid of, you have the makings of a very satisfying meal.
The pasta pictured above has all the flavor boosters - thinly sliced garlic and a few anchovies and a few spoonfuls of herb butter with tarragon and chives and I forget what else. Then I had a few peppers that were starting to wrinkle on the counter, and a bag of mushrooms from my farm delivery box. I also realized I had some cured soppressata (dried salami) from a recent party that had been sitting in my fridge for a while. Voila! A full-on meal scavenged from the fridge. In a perfect world, there would have been Parmesan cheese, but that's life. I didn't even miss it, to be honest.
The Rough Recipe
Serves 2 or more, depending on how much pasta you use and how many other ingredients you add. Takes roughly 20 minutes, less with fresh pasta.
Here's what you'll need:
- A large pot and a large skillet
- Kosher salt
- Dried pasta, maybe 3 or 4 ounces per person
- Extra virgin olive oil
- A few cloves of thinly sliced garlic, plus a few spoonfuls of anchovies and capers if you want
- 1 cup per person of a quick cooking veggie, chopped into small pieces - corn, mushrooms, broccoli, asparagus, spinach, kale, peas, whatever you have (or leftover cooked veggies from the fridge)
- Optional wonderful additions: Parmesan or another cheese, butter, bits of cured or leftover meat
- Veggies you like to eat raw, like arugula or fresh ripe tomatoes, are good too
Bring salted water to the boil, add your pasta, and undercook it (I boil it a few minutes less than the package directions - bite it and look for a little bit of uncooked white in the center). Then drain the pasta and save a cup or two of the starchy pasta water for your sauce.
Heat the skillet on the side over medium heat with a few decent glugs of olive oil, enough so the bottom of the pot is well coated. Add the garlic and let it cook a minute or two. Add any other flavor boosters like anchovies or capers, then stir in your quick-cooking veggies. Once everything is just tender, add about a cup of the reserved pasta water. If you have grated Parm or Pecorino or another hard cheese, add some (don't forget to save your Parm rinds for Stock!) and if you have herby butter, add a few tablespoons of that too. If not, regular butter is great too. Have you got random cured meats you want to get rid of, like salami or prosciutto or cooked meats like chicken or ham? Go for it. Cut them into bite-sized pieces and toss them in.
Stir until everything comes together into a sauce, then add the pasta. Stir until well combined, adding more pasta water if it seems dry, and cook another minute or two, until the pasta is done to your liking. If you have flavorful lighter leaves or herbs, like arugula or baby spinach or dandelion greens or basil or mint, you could stir them in right at the end and let them wilt a bit. Serve in bowls with spoonfuls of sauce, with more olive oil or cheese, or black pepper or fresh herbs if you've got them. Enjoy!