It's scramble time for locavores. We're in the between-season - the stretch that runs roughly from spring break to final exams, when winter is technically over but fresh, local produce is but a twinkle in Mother Nature's eye. We need "pantry pastas" - noodle dishes that utilize bottled, canned, dried or frozen foods. Pantry pastas put common, stocked ingredients, some of them locally sourced, to good advantage, at a time when they're needed most. And they make a quick, hearty meal when the weather is fickle at best, or wicked at worst.
When you're pasta-planning, some standbys will come immediately to mind: macaroni and cheese, linguini with pesto and the ever-handy marinara sauce tossed with any shape you have on hand. Or take a casual inventory of your kitchen and simply let what's there inspire you. Have bacon and eggs? Think spaghetti carbonara. Sun-dried tomatoes and olives? Make a lusty puttanesca. A knob of gingerroot, some frozen peas and leftover pork? You have Chinese dan-dan noodles.
Here are three more early-spring pantry pastas that come together with little effort - which means you can cook, eat dinner and still have time to putter in the garden before the sun goes down. And should it be snowing? Relax, add a glass of wine, and surrender gracefully to winter's last laugh.
Blue Cheese Pasta Toss
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 3-4 ounces Wisconsin blue cheese (e.g. Hook's)
- 1-1/2 tablespoons butter
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1/2 pound pasta
- cooked, chopped asparagus or other vegetable (optional)
- freshly ground pepper
Place a pot of salted water over a high flame. Combine garlic, cheese, butter and mustard in large, heatproof bowl; place it over the heating water to partially melt the mixture. When water boils, remove bowl from top of pot; keep bowl warm. Cook pasta in the boiling water until just tender. Drain and toss pasta (and veggies, if using) with contents of bowl. Add pepper. Serve up. This method comes from a recipe in Deborah Madison's The Savory Way.
Pasta with Tuna, Capers and Parsley
- 3/4 pound dried pasta (whatever's in the cupboard)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons minced garlic (or 3 tablespoons green garlic shoots, if they're coming up in your garden)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup capers
- 2 cans (each 6-1/2 ounces) oil-packed tuna, drained
- 3-4 tablespoons chopped parsley, divided
- salt and pepper
Boil pasta in salted water until tender. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large, deep skillet over medium-high flame. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring often, until golden, about 2 minutes. Add tuna and cook 1-2 minutes. Stir in wine, capers and half the parsley; season with salt and pepper and cook until wine has nearly evaporated, 4-5 minutes. Add drained pasta and some of the cooking water; cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes. Adjust seasonings and add more pasta water as desired. Serve pronto and salute Emil Sattler, who shared the recipe this was adapted from.
- 1 cup bread crumbs (panko-style or Cabbibo's semolina recommended)
- 1/2-2/3 cup grated hard cheese (like Sartori's Bellavitano or Farmer John's Parmesan)
- 1/4 cup basil pesto
- 1-2 eggs, beaten (optional)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional oil for garnish
- 1 package (9 ounces) RP's whole-wheat linguine or other fresh pasta
Boil pasta in salted water until barely tender. Meanwhile, mix breadcrumbs, cheese, pesto and eggs (if using) in a bowl. Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high flame. Add oil. Add crumb mixture and sauté until brown and crispy. Drain pasta; toss with crumb mixture. Add a drizzle of olive oil to each serving. This dish was inspired by breading that was leftover from making spiedini (Sicilian kebobs) - thus the name.