When Pantry Comes to the Rescue
Thursday, a week ago.
I had known in advance the day would be long and arduous. In addition to all the regular chores associated with work, home, traffic and weather, there would be evening pickup duties connected to air travel and associated ground transport for one Mister Mighty Appetite. In anticipation of the day ahead, I begin to mull over possible venues for a quick supper, not even considering a meal at home. Frankly, there is just too much to do.
As the day wears on, summer storms and resulting flight delays become part of the equation, and now it's anybody's guess when/if Mister MA would get home in time for dinner.
It's 7:30, I'm in traffic and suddenly ravenous. What to do, what to do, I wonder. I can no longer be the dutifully waiting spouse. As I get closer to home, I mentally scan the contents of the fridge and cabinets for the makings of a quick, last-minute meal, but remain unsure if I've even got the energy to pull it all together.
We've all had this kind of day that feels like a runaway train, and suddenly it's dusk and oh yeah, it's time for supper. That darn to-do list just kept getting longer and the very thing you need accomplished -- supper on the table -- is still all the way at the bottom.
Okay, I say to myself, what can I make in 20 minutes flat? From the cabinet, I grab a bag of penne pasta and a can of garbanzo beans. I put a pot of water on the stove, and while it heats up, I smash a few cloves of garlic. From the fridge, I pull a bunch of fresh parsley and a lemon, and start slicing a handful of sun gold tomatoes sitting on the counter.
As soon as the water comes to a boil, the meal comes together, like a dance. Olive oil gets heated in a pan, and I pour in drained garbanzos with the chopped garlic. Yes, let's add a little cayenne for some heat. (Time check: 10 minutes have elapsed.)
The tomatoes follow, and I turn down the heat, as they need little coaxing. The house was starting to smell nice. A few splashes of white wine from my glass later and a sauce was emerging. I taste it, add a bit of salt and a handful of that chopped parsley and a squeeze of that lemon. Now off the heat, the sauce waits for its pasta partner, a few minutes away from al dente. (Time check: We're now at the 17-minute mark.)
In the meantime, I grate a few ounces of Parmigiano, and add a small amount of pasta water to the sauce for thickening.
At minute 21, the pasta is done, and I drain it, pour it into a wide bowl, and spritz with olive oil. As I pour the garbanzo sauce on top, the phone rings, and it's Mister MA. His plane has just touched down, but there would be at least another hour of travel before reaching home.
"Take your time," I say. "There's dinner when you get here."
By minute 25, I am lapping up the sauce and enjoying the benefits of this ad hoc challenge, an exercise that took about the same amount of time to drive, wait in line and order at the carryout counter. The key is keeping the pantry stocked, and dinner outside of the box is yours. Seriously.
Share your favorite ways of beating the race against time with a spatula.
On-the-Run Summer Pasta Supper
Amounts are approximate; adjust according to taste and servings. Mix and match ingredients as necessary; omit wine if necessary or use white beans instead of garbanzos. Grated zucchini would be really nice here.
Ingredients for Two
½ pound short pasta, such as penne or rotini
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained
Olive oil for cooking
¼ teaspoon cayenne
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Handful sun gold or cherry tomatoes, halved
Splash of white wine
Juice of ½ lemon
Small handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt to taste
Few ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Cook pasta in a pot of boiling salted water. While pasta is cooking, heat a skillet with a few tablespoons of olive oil and add garbanzos over medium heat.
With a wooden spoon, stir to keep from sticking and add garlic and cayenne. Stir to combine. Cook for about three minutes, until beans develop a little bit of a crust. Add tomatoes, lower heat, and if using, add wine, allowing a few minutes for it to boil off.
Add lemon and parsley, stir to combine. Taste for salt and add accordingly. Turn off heat and pasta should be just a few minutes away.
To assemble, pour drained pasta in serving bowl, and add sauce on top, stirring to combine. Add cheese, if using, and serve in bowls.
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