Anyone who knows me knows I'm a pasta person, through and through. It's my favorite speed-demon dinner when I come home from work. It's my go-to leftovers situation magicked into lunch with a handful of arugula. And, heck, I've been known to eat breakfast pasta a time or two a week (yes, breakfast pasta is decidedly a "thing").
Anyone who knows me also knows that I'm not the most...consistent, shall we say, grocery shopper. Between main trips to the store, I'll go about a week at a time with my cupboards essentially bare, save for a few staples (pasta is without question one of them). I'll pick up groceries for individual meals a few nights after work (not the most efficient, I know—but it's like a little adventure each time!), and go out with friends on others.
So if a nightly trip to the store and a dinner out aren't in the cards, I'm looking to make something quick and low-maintenance (read: light on ingredients). This means I'm always in search of new pasta recipes in particular that I can make at a moment's notice, using stuff I already have on hand. And I always want them to be chock-full of flavor and verve.
This is where Jamie Oliver's newest book, 5 Ingredients: Quick & Easy Food has been my miracle worker. It's comprised entirely of simple, ready-in-a-snap dishes that have just—yep, you guessed it—five ingredients. Lucky for me, there's a whole chapter on pasta (though there's also one on various proteins, fish, vegetable sides and salads, and desserts).
And even luckier for me, the recipes call for things that even I have in my kitchen stash. Think: dribs and drabs of Parmesan or ricotta cheese, a handful of greens, a can of plum tomatoes, or a dollop of yogurt or crème fraîche. Check, check, check, and check.
Oliver, like our own Big Little Recipes, excludes a few staples from the five ingredients he counts in each dish: light olive oil, for cooking; extra-virgin olive oil, for dressing and finishing; red wine vinegar, for acidity; and sea salt and black pepper. Seems pretty reasonable to me (plus, that stuff's mercifully already in my pantry).
"This book focuses unapologetically on genius combinations of just five ingredients that work together to deliver an utterly delicious result, giving maximum flavor, with minimum results," says Oliver in the book's introduction. "I want everyone to enjoy cooking from scratch."
And I can get on board with all of that. In the spirit of weeknight ease, armed with little more than a few pantry staples and just a quarter of an hour, here are three pasta recipes from 5 Ingredients: Quick & Easy Foods that I'll be sure to call on weeknight after weeknight—and I'd wager you will, too.
This clever take on carbonara uses cheese and pasta water to help create a creamy sauce, much like the other Roman pasta classic, cacio e pepe. It's also aided by a single egg, alluding to traditional carbonara, to add some richness and heft. This pasta smartly leverages meaty sausage (though shiitake mushrooms could likely work great, too) and vibrant Italian parsley to add punches of flavor and texture to the dish. The whole thing, ready in just 15 minutes, feels much more complex than its humble ingredients.
Looking at that striking green color! It evokes pesto, but requires a fraction of the ingredients. Earthy cavolo nero (known to some as Tuscan kale, dinosaur kale, or Lacinato kale) is sautéed with garlic and blitzed up in the blender, along with extra-virgin olive oil and finely grated Parmesan. The sauce is mixed into pasta and loosened up with a bit of starchy pasta water, and is topped off with creamy ricotta cheese and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. And again, it looks incredibly impressive—but you know how simple and speedy it was to make.
This pasta uses crème fraîche (though full-fat Greek yogurt seems equally great here), Parmesan, and pasta water to make its tangy, creamy sauce. This sauce cuts perfectly through the hearty, garlicky mushrooms you sauté up for the dish, making it a cozy and comforting vegetarian main (that won't put you straight to bed).
What are your go-to pantry-centric weeknight dinners? Tell us in the comments!
Another genius dinner from Jamie.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).
Brinda is the Managing Editor at Food52, where she also edits all of Food52's cookbooks and covers the latest and greatest books on the site (drop her a line with recs!). She likes chewy Neapolitan pizza, stinky cheese of all sorts, and tahini-flavored anything. Brinda lives in Brooklyn with 18 plants. Find her at @brindayesterday on Twitter and Instagram.