Tuesday Tip: Perfect Pantry Pasta - Scrumptious Snowed-in Simple Supper
Windsor, ON - This winter, Windsor has had its fair share of the white stuff, and the forecast is calling for a few more wallops! So for a simple supper solution for when you're snowed in, check out your pantry and whip up some pasta!

"In the event of a snow day, when a trip to the grocery store is impossible, three are many delectable dishes that may be created using dishes that are hiding in the pantry," says Melanie de Liberato, Chef at St. Clair College's Eatery 101 and graduate of the Culinary Management program.

Using staples you usually have stocked in your cupboards, fridge and freezer, de Liberato says a gourmet pasta dish can be prepared in a pinch.

Simple ingredients on a tray.
Simple ingredients that you usually have readily available to make a quick and easy pasta when you're in a pinch.

Ingredients (yields 2 portions):

  • 6 cups of boiling water
  • Half a package of any available noodle (fettuccine, linguine, spaghetti, penne, bow tie etc.)
  • 1 cup of frozen or canned vegetables such as peas, green beans, corn, peppers broccoli, carrots or vegetable medley. If fresh vegetables are available, they may be incorporated as well. For instance, mushrooms, spinach, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, peppers or arugula.
  • 1 1/2 cups of milk or cream
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan or Mozzarella
  • 1 clove of garlic finely minced or 1 tsp. of granulated garlic
  • 1/2 an onion finely chopped or 1 tsp. of onion powder
  • 1/4 cup of white wine or light beer
  • 1/4 tsp. chill flakes or cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh or dry parsley
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil, canola oil or butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Procedure:

In a large stock pot, bring the water to a boil.

TIP: salt the water with 2 tbsp. of salt. "This may seem like too much but salting the water will assist the water in boiling faster," says de Liberato. "As well, it will give the vegetables and noodles a better texture."

If you are using frozen vegetables, she says to boil according to the product guidelines. If using canned, cooked vegetables omit this step.

TIP: Frozen vegetables are high in vitamins and minerals. Remove the vegetables from the boiling water and run them under cold water. "Running the vegetables under cold water will prevent them from overcooking," says de Liberato.

Reserve the vegetable water to boil your noodles in.

TIP: "Using the same water for the noodles will give the noodles excellent flavour, saves you extra time and will later on give the sauce a hearty winter vegetable taste," explains de Liberato.

Next, she says to place a medium size saucepan over moderate heat and heat the oil or butter lightly. Add your onion and sweat until the flesh of the onion is translucent. Then add the minced garlic clove. She says only sweat for one minute, and do not brown the onion or garlic "because it will make your sauce taste bitter."

If you are using powdered garlic and onion, omit this step.

Bring the reserved water back to a boil and add one tablespoon of oil to the boiling, salted water.

TIP: "A small amount of oil will prevent the noodles from sticking together," de Liberato explains.

Cook the noodles al dente according to the manufacturer's specifications.

TIP: "Cooking your noodles al dente ensures a stellar texture and is more beneficial from a nutritional standpoint," explains de Liberato. "Cooking your noodles al dente will save you approximately 250 calories during consumption."

Reserve one tablespoon of the pasta liquid before straining the noodles. "Once you have strained the noodles, do not rinse your noodles in cold water," says de Liberato. "The sauce will better adhere to your noodles and will provide a more delicious taste and mouth feel."

Then she says to carefully add your wine or beer to the onion and garlic mixture.

TIP: "Stand back while the alcohol cooks," warns de Liberato. "You would not want to lose any hair."

Cooking with alcohol also creates layers of deep flavour profiles and will give your sauce great body and shine, explains de Liberato.

Next, put your vegetables in the sauce pot with the onion and garlic and gently sweat the vegetables. If you are using powdered garlic and onion, mix it into the vegetable medley.

Then add the cream or milk and reduce it by lightly simmering for five minutes until the liquid is significantly thickened. Stir in the reserved tablespoon of noodle water and mix well.

TIP: If no cream or milk is preferred or is unavailable, follow the recipe above but use olive oil and lemon juice as a suitable replacement.

Finally, sprinkle in your cheese, parsley and chili flakes or cayenne.

Put your cooked noodles in the sauce pot and coat well with the sauce and vegetables. Salt and pepper to your personal preference.

Bon appetite!

Simple ingredients on a tray.
Simple ingredients that you usually have readily available to make a quick and easy pasta when you're in a pinch.
Eatery 101 Chef: Melanie de Liberato holding tray of ingredients
Eatery 101 Chef Melanie de Liberato holds up a tray of ingredients for simple pantry pasta.