Thursday, November 5, 2009

In Case It's Good

Weeknights have been getting a bit hectic around here, so many of our dinners have to be either planned and prepared in advance, or are of the grab-and-go variety. We don’t eat at restaurants or do take-out (really, it would be silly to, since there’s so much food in the apartment), so sometimes I have to get a little creative with what’s on hand. Usually what is on hand is pretty decent stuff, I must say. The refrigerator is full of veggies from our CSA and the freezer is stocked with squash puree, pesto and corn, leaving no room for frozen pizzas or Hot Pockets.

This week, I was lucky enough to have some pesto that I had just made (from the remnants of the basil jungle that I rescued from the frost and have been keeping alive in a spare bedroom), cooked white beans that I had frozen, and some homemade whole wheat wide noodles (made with this recipe) that I was terrified I would forget about until I found them desiccated and crumbled in a lonely corner of the freezer six months from now. Just the pasta with pesto would have been great for me, but I decided to plump it up with the beans. I flavored the beans with garlic and olive oil, plus some homemade vegetable broth, waiting in the wings for its supporting role. (Okay, so it was waiting in the refrigerator to be eaten.)

As I was cooking, I decided to snap a few photographs and pay a bit of attention to what I was doing, “Just in case it’s good.” I had a feeling that it was going to be pretty tasty, but if it wasn’t all that interesting, I could simply delete the photos and get on with my life. As it turns out, this was pretty good, and a darn good solution to the quick week-night meal mystery. A few kalamata olives and a sprinkling of Parmiggiano-Reggiano, and suddenly, it’s sophisticated. The whole thing took me about 20 minutes to make, maybe even less, so if you’re going to have garlic bread or a salad on the side, you better hustle to get them done at the same time.

The measurements and methods in the recipe below are approximations, since I didn’t start out to develop a recipe. You could certainly use canned beans, store-bought pesto and boxed pasta, or use whatever broth you have on hand for the liquid, or even dry white wine, water, or pasta cooking water. I say keep it simple and easy, but keep track of what you did….you know, in case it’s good.

Pasta with White Beans and Pesto

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 ½ cups cooked or canned white beans (about 1 16-ounce can), rinsed and drained
¾ cup vegetable broth
pinch of salt (to taste, depending on how salty the broth and beans are)
½ cup pesto
¼ cup kalamata olives, pitted and finely chopped
½ pound wide whole wheat pasta, or whatever pasta you like, cooked
Parmiggiano-Reggiano cheese

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic slices and cook, stirring often until the garlic is just beginning to brown.

2. Add the beans and broth, plus a pinch of salt if desired. Cook 5-8 minutes until the liquid has reduced by about half and has thickened. Add the pesto and olives and stir well.

3. Add the cooked pasta and toss well to coat. Cook long enough to heat everything through. If the sauce is too thick, thin it out with more broth or with the pasta cooking water. Sprinkle each serving with grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano if desired.

Makes about 4 servings.

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