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4 quick pastas

  • BLT Bucatini. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post. Food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post. Stacy Zarin Goldberg—For The Washington Post

  • Cacio e Pepe Alla Colu. Stacy Zarin Goldberg / For the Washington Post

  • Farfalle with salmon, peas and sage. Stacy Zarin Goldberg / For The Washington Post

  • Lemon Spaghettini. Stacy Zarin Goldberg / For the Washington Post



Washington Post
Wednesday, May 09, 2018

For pasta lovers like me, Sundays are for long-simmered ragùs, and, when I’m feeling really ambitious, homemade noodles. For the rest of the week, thankfully, there are boxed pastas and pantry sauces I can pull together in about the time it takes to boil a pot of water.

Pasta is a great vehicle for seasonal vegetables: peas and asparagus now, eggplant and peppers in summer, hearty greens in fall. But it also lets you get creative with everyday supermarket staples such as lemons and cherry tomatoes from the produce aisle, salmon from the fish counter and bacon from the deli. Plus cheese - don’t forget cheese. Pasta and cheese love each other. In fact, if all you have on hand is a box of pasta and a wedge of cheese, you can still make a nice dish of pasta.

The array of pasta shapes available, including fat, rustic bucatini and elegant farfalle (bowties), to name a couple of my favorites, gives you even more to play around with.

Cacio e Pepe Alla Colu

This Roman classic is traditionally made with just three ingredients: spaghetti, pecorino Romano and black pepper – lots of it. Cookbook author Colu Henry adds butter to help emulsify the cheesy sauce.

Make ahead: The pasta can be refrigerated for 3 or 4 days.

Salt

12 ounces dried spaghetti

4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter (salted or unsalted)

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving

1 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Salt it generously.

Add the spaghetti; reduce the heat to medium-high and cook according to the package directions (for al dente).

When the pasta is about halfway done cooking, start the sauce: Melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pepper and stir for about 2 minutes, until it is aromatic. Add ½ cup of the cooking water directly from the pasta pot; once the mixture is bubbling, cook for 1 minute, stirring, to form a well-blended (emulsified) sauce.

Drain the pasta, reserving another ½ cup of its cooking water.

Reduce the heat to medium; add the cooked spaghetti and the cheese directly to the skillet, tossing vigorously until evenly coated and the cheese has melted. Add the ½ cup of pasta cooking water; cook for 1 minute more.

Divide among individual bowls or plates; serve with additional cheese and pepper.

BLT Bucatini

America’s favorite sandwich gets an Italian makeover, with pasta standing in for the bread, pancetta for the bacon and spicy arugula for the lettuce.

Pancetta is pork belly, same as bacon, but cured with salt and spices rather than smoked. You can use thickly sliced bacon to give your bucatini a smoky flavor.

Make ahead: The pasta can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Salt

8 ounces thickly or thinly sliced pancetta (may substitute thick-cut bacon; see note)

1½ pounds cherry tomatoes

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound dried bucatini (also known as perciatelli)

5 ounces baby arugula leaves

½ cup freshly grated pecorino-Romano cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Salt it generously.

Cut the sliced pancetta into ½-inch cubes or pieces. Cut each tomato in half.

Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, scatter the pancetta in the pan and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until the pancetta fat has started to render (melt) and the meat is lightly browned and somewhat crispy.

Add the tomatoes to the pan; increase the heat to medium-high. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the tomatoes have collapsed and the liquid in the pan has thickened into a sauce. Reduce the heat as needed to keep the sauce barely bubbling at the edges. Taste, and season with salt, as needed.

Turn off the heat and cover to keep the sauce warm.

Add the bucatini to the boiling water; reduce the heat to medium-high and cook according to the package directions (for al dente). Drain the pasta in a colander set in the sink, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Transfer the bucatini to the skillet and gently toss with the sauce, adding a splash or two of the cooking water, as needed, to loosen the consistency.

Add the arugula by the handful and continue to toss for a minute or so, just until the greens are wilted.

Divide among individual bowls and sprinkle each portion with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the cheese. Serve warm.

Lemon Spaghettini

Yes, you can have luxury on a Tuesday (or whatever) night. All you need is lemon, some cream, a shower of herbs, good cheese – and pasta.

Spaghetti’s skinnier sibling is what you want for this delicate sauce.

Make ahead: The pasta can be refrigerated for 3 or 4 days.

Salt

1 small lemon

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup heavy cream

Leaves from 2 large sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley

Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh basil

1 pound dried spaghettini (thin spaghetti)

½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving

Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Salt it generously.

Zest the lemon with a Microplane grater or zester (no white pith). Squeeze the lemon and measure out 2 tablespoons.

Combine the oil and lemon zest in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring now and again, for a couple of minutes, until the zest starts to sizzle gently.

Stir in the cream and increase the heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 3 minutes, until the cream is heated through. Then whisk in the lemon juice, one tablespoon at a time, to form a thickened sauce. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.

Finely chop the parsley and basil; you should end up with about a tablespoon of each.

Add the spaghettini, reduce the heat to medium-high and cook according to the package directions (for al dente). Watch closely, as this thin spaghetti cooks quickly. Drain in a colander set in the sink, reserving ½ cup of the cooking water.

Return the pasta to the pot, then pour the sauce over it. Toss gently to combine. Stir in the cheese, herbs and a few grindings of black pepper. Add a splash or two of cooking water, as needed, to loosen the sauce. Toss once more, then divide among individual bowls, and serve with additional cheese.

Farfalle with Salmon, Peas and Sage

2 servings main-course or 4 small servings

This dish provides yet another good reason to keep a bag of green peas in your freezer. They’re as good as fresh. Not only do they make a fast side dish (say, sauteed with shallots), but you can also add them to curries, frittatas and potpies.

Here, they combine with salmon for an easy, elegant pasta dish.

½ teaspoon salt, plus more as needed

8 ounces wild-caught salmon fillet, skinned

1 tablespoon butter (salted or unsalted)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium shallot

Leaves from 1 large sprig fresh sage

Freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons dry white wine

¼ cup heavy cream

½ cup frozen green peas, defrosted

8 ounces dried farfalle (bowtie pasta)

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Salt it generously.

Cut the salmon into ¾-inch cubes.

Combine the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the butter starts to sizzle, stir in the shallot and sage. Cook, stirring often, for 5 to 6 minutes, until the shallots have begun to soften.

Increase the heat to medium-high; add the salmon, the ½ teaspoon of salt and a generous grinding of pepper. Cook for about 1 minute, tossing the salmon gently to coat evenly.

As soon as the salmon begins to turn opaque, sprinkle in the wine. Let it bubble for about 30 seconds, then stir in the cream and peas; cook for 5 to 7 minutes to form a sauce that is barely bubbling at the edges. The peas should be heated through yet still bright green. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Add the farfalle to the boiling water; reduce the heat to medium-high and cook according to the package directions (for al dente). Drain the pasta in a colander set in the sink, reserving ½ cup of the cooking water.

Transfer the farfalle to the skillet; gently toss with the sauce until well incorporated. Add a splash or two of the cooking water, as needed, to loosen the sauce.

Divide among individual bowls and serve.