Anyone experience high levels of absolutely not wanting to cook another damn meal while in social distancing? Me too. As someone who loves cooking and often does it in an effort to decompress, I am sick to death of cooking 3 meals a day, every single day, and worse, figuring out WTF I’m going to cook four days in advance because I’m trying my best to limit time spent in grocery stores. In times like this, pantry pasta is my only comfort, the light at the end of the tunnel. In the spirit of sharing this as a true pantry pasta recipe, there are no real rules, all you need is a packet of pasta and some fridge dwelling bits and pieces to turn kitchen sadness into a legitimate meal.
Start with investigating the depths of the fridge and cupboard. Depending on your vegetable/protein situation, you can figure out which kind of pasta you can make. Build on top of things that add a ton of flavour with little effort, think: anchovies, garlic, lemon, chilli, cured meats, parmesan etc.
Build your base with a few glugs of olive oil in a pan on medium heat, add smashed garlic cloves/anchovies/chilli/meat (if you have only one or all of these things this is fine) and soften, this usually takes 3-4 minutes. If you have tomato paste, add a tablespoon of this to your base, it will go very far.
In the instance you have vegetables, add these in now with a couple of pinches of salt. Things like fresh or frozen peas, kale, zucchini, leeks, jarred artichokes or fresh tomatoes are all great. Sauté these until they turn bright green or are tender but not fully cooked.
You should be cooking your pasta in the meantime and reserving approx. 1-1/2 cups pasta cooking water for the saucepan. Once al dente, transfer cooked pasta into your saucepan and start incorporating into your veg orsauce mix wherever it’s at (it might just be hot oil and garlic which is not only okay but delicious). Add in a good amount of finely grated parmesan, and add reserved pasta water gradually to melt the parmesan, and loosen/bind the sauce to the noodles, add a teaspoon of butter to emulsify further if you want a glossy sauce. If you have herbs (basil, parsley and mint are often nice), add them finely chopped, now. If you have lemon, add the zest and juice of half the lemon now too. Once all ingredients of choice are incorporated, toss a couple more times and serve. Top with black pepper and remaining herbs/chilli/parmesan and look at what has been made out of practically nothing.
Of course, this recipe/method relies on a bit of common sense when it comes to what works together flavour-wise, and not throwing everything you can possibly find in a pot and hoping for the best, but sometimes all it takes is some olive oil, parmesan and pasta water to make something delicious. The simpler the better.