Here’s my favorite technique for making a fast, healthy pasta dish that will also give you plenty of leftovers. Yes, I said healthy pasta! Pasta is actually in the middle on the Glycemic Load; adding lots of vegetables keeps the calorie count reasonable and prevents a spike in blood sugar.
The magic is in the vegetables. You knew I’d get those in, right?
The key is cooking the vegetable sauce and the pasta at the same time, and using some of that starchy, seasoned pasta water to build your sauce. This actually takes longer to write down the steps than it does to make (wish I knew how to make you all a video), so hang in there with me. You’ll be glad you did.
Here’s how to do it:
- Get out your pasta pot, fill with water and turn on the heat. Grab a big skillet and get that warmed up too (I use medium high on my old GE gas stove).
- If you have something savory with a little fat in it, like a few strips of bacon (chopped into ½” pieces) or a couple of sausage links (crumbled), put those in a big skillet with a little olive oil and brown ‘em up. Anchovies or anchovy paste is also great to start this dish (it doesn’t taste fishy in the finished sauce, just savory) – you’ll want to add more oil to the pan and cook the anchovies for a few minutes before moving on to step 2. If you don’t have any of these or don’t want meat in your dish, no problem, just warm some oil in your skillet – about 2-3 Tbs for a pound of pasta.
- Smash a couple of garlic cloves and throw those in the pan, along with a pinch or two of red pepper flakes. You need a little heat to wake up the veggies, but it won’t taste spicy unless you add over ¼ tsp.
- Add chopped vegetables to the skillet, enough to almost fill it up. I usually start with sliced onions and get those nice and soft, then add another vegetable like artichokes (thawed from frozen), cauliflower, broccoli, spinach or Swiss chard, peppers, or eggplant. Whatever I’ve got in the fridge. Toss the veggies to get them good and coated with the oil and start them browning.
- By this time the water should be boiling, so add a handful of salt and your pasta. Stir. Then add a couple of ladles of the pasta cooking water to the skillet; it should be at a lively simmer. By the time your pasta is cooked, the veggies and pasta water will have melded into a lovely sauce. Like magic.
- Just before your pasta is done, fish it out of the pot and add it to the skillet. I use tongs for long pastas and a slotted spoon or spider for short pastas. Simmer everything together for a few minutes, adding more pasta water if its too dry.
- Drizzle with a little olive oil and add the grated cheese of your choice. Yum!
This may sound complicated, but once you try it once or twice you’ll be hooked. Pre-chopped veggies make this a snap, and you can have dinner on the table in 15 minutes start to finish. Add a salad, you’ll have time while the sauce and pasta simmer away, and you can feel good about eating a big bowlful of pasta.