Mission Pastable: Homemade Fast Food

Every weekend involves my grandiose plans for a well thought out, deeply complicated Sunday dinner.

I’m serious. I spend Saturday feeding visions of a trip to the store to frolic amongst the many fresh ingredients that will leave my stove, and ultimately my stomach, singing.

Then, Sunday gets here, and by 6pm I realize that it’s too late to make my dinner dreams come true without holding off my hunger till 9pm. So we go out.

Honestly, the same can be said about any weekday. I wake up in the morning, and often go to bed the night before, planning a mind-blowing meal. Then, I get home after a long day of work and want nothing more than to squeeze into a booth or yell into a speaker that will end with a belly full of nutritionally bankrupt crap.

The truth is, though, that it’s totally possible to have fast food in your own kitchen. No, this doesn’t involve a golden M or burger royalty. And, no, I’m not going all Rachael Ray on you.

Preparation is key, and so is knowing what you can realistically pull off.

I’ll give you an example. Make it as-is, but let it also be your inspiration.

It’s a one pot pasta dish. For me it was the perfect way to enjoy a filling meal, while celebrating the fact that it actually felt like Spring outside.

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Here’s what you need:
1 box whole grain fettuccine
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves
3 Tbsp. butter, cut into cubes
4 lemons (preferably Meyer lemons)
1 3oz. bag of sundried tomatoes
1 can of cannellini beans
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Fill a big pot (tall enough to fit the whole pieces of pasta) with water and bring it to a boil.

While that’s happening, focus on your mis en place (meese in ploss). That’s French for “put in place.” In other words, get everything ready to go so you can rock ‘n’ roll once the pasta is done.

Fill up a bowl with hot tap water and add the tomatoes. This will rehydrate and soften them.

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Chop your onion.

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Zest the lemons. I used Meyer lemons, but regular will be fine. I know the zest of 4 lemons seems like a lot, but the intensity of the citrus oil makes this dish. Keep the zester handy.

Your water should be boiling now (if it happens earlier, that’s okay!). Toss in a big handful of salt. Then add the pasta. Cook till al dente.

Then, squeeze the lemons into a bowl that has a lid. For this recipe you’ll use 2 Tbsp. of the juice. Keep the rest in the fridge for tea or salad dressing.

Drain and rinse the cannellini beans. If you skip this step, your dish will be murky, stale, and slimy.

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Remove the tomatoes from the water and slice.

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When the fettuccine is done, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water. This is really important.

Then dump the pasta into a colander, make sure the pot doesn’t have any noodles or water left in it, then put it back on the burner over medium-low heat. Remember, it’ll still be very hot.

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Add in the olive oil and diced onion. Cook for about 4 minutes just to soften the onion. Grate in the garlic cloves, stir, then dump in the fettuccine and toss.

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Add the zest, and butter, then toss.

Add the sliced tomatoes, beans, and juice. Toss.

Pour in the pasta water, and toss.

Dump in the cheese and red pepper flakes, and toss.

Sprinkle in a good bit of salt (less if you used salted butter) and freshly cracked pepper.

Serve drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a good sprinkle of Parmesan cheese!

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This is not a saucy, soupy pasta. The starch in the pasta water helps everything cling together.

This dish is very light and refreshing from all that zest. And you get a very subtle back of the throat burn from the red pepper flakes.

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The tomatoes provide a rich, sweetness and a chewy texture. The beans make the meal creamy, and because they’re full of protein, you don’t really miss having meat.

All this in one pot. I know. I know!

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If you want to add meat, go for a rotisserie chicken. Just shred up the meat. The hot pasta will warm it up.

You can substitute or add in asparagus, diced cherry peppers, sliced mushrooms, shrimp, sweet peas, regular diced or fire roasted tomatoes… Or whatever you want!

If you do asparagus or shrimp, just add it to the pasta in the last few minutes of cooking. It’ll boil quickly.

Try a Greek variety: all the lemon zest, diced tomatoes, diced red onion, Kalamata olives, and crumbled feta cheese.

Fast flavor without the fuss!

Tip: When squeezing lemons, you can do it into a strainer set over a measuring cup or bowl. No strainer? Rogue seeds? Use a fork to fish out the little buggers. The tines will catch them and not the luscious juice!

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. viveka says:

    This looks and reads …. good enough to eat – will come back to you when tired it.

    1. Please do! I’d love to know what you think. Thanks for reading!!

      1. viveka says:

        I promise … I always do a post when I tried out a blogging recipe.

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