Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pantry Pasta -- Whole Wheat Fusilli with Artichokes, Garbanzo Beans, Fresh Spinach, and Tomatoes

In addition to the bulging binders of clipped recipes that patiently await their time in the spotlight, the stack of cooking magazines that I've creatively hidden behind a wing chair to limit their continual reminder that they need to be tended to and purged, and the line-up of cookbooks I've collected and are at various points of familiarity to me, I've always liked to just kind of shoot from the hip -- to pull dinners together with whatever I've got available in the pantry (or fridge). I figure the years I've spent looking at, reading, and mulling over recipes have enabled and inspired this in me... even if it has also hindered me getting through my piles!

These quick and easy dinners usually take the form of a salad, a soup, or a pasta. They're usually meatless meals that I can have on the table in under 30 minutes (thought to finish) and can make from whatever is in my pantry... or fridge. To do this requires having a consistent staple of items that you know will be available. The canned goods are easy... no worry of spoilage. The fresh items might seem more difficult to rely on but if you know what you love and what you'll use...and how to work whatever it is into other meals... nothing goes to waste. In this particular dish, I use fresh spinach. I always have this in my fridge... it goes in salads, in soups, in pastas, in sandwiches, or even pesto.

I threw this pasta together a couple of months ago on one of those let's-just-get-something-on-the-table kind of nights and have made it a few times since...including an impromptu dinner at the home of friends when it decided to rain in August (!!!) and nix our plans for a boat ride and dinner out. I raided my girlfriend's pantry and had this on their table in 20 minutes. Lots of laughs, good music, great wine, yummy munchies...a quick pasta and a little dancing...and we soon forgot about the boat and the rain!

The great thing about this pasta is you just feel like you're getting a little bit of all that's good for you. The garbanzo beans truly give the "meaty" substance you might want in a pasta. And the artichokes, onions, garlic, spinach, and tomatoes provide all the background you'd ever need to ensure it's a tasty one.

I offer this up, quite selfishly, for our daughters. It's again that time of year when we say "goodbye." You'd think I'd be rather good at this since we've now experienced six straight years of saying adios...good luck with the semester (or quarter, depending on the institution), be safe, be smart... etc... etc. We are now at the end of this process. The last of our offspring will graduate this year.

The thing is... in addition to getting my recipes together for our girls... I'm also working to ensure that they have what they need to eat well... whether they are three hours away by car (and thankfully employed and blossoming), or five hours away by plane and soon-to-find-her-way. We have loads of recipes we've loved... thus the reason for this blog... but we also have two girls that need to get meals on the table quick, easy... and somewhat economically. So... this little "pantry pasta" is offered to you sweet girls. Be happy... be safe... be smart ... and, above all, know you are loved!!!

Cheers to another summer!

Whole Wheat Fusilli Pasta with Artichokes, Garbanzo Beans, Fresh Spinach and Tomatoes
serves 4

1 16-ounce package whole wheat fusilli pasta
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 14-ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 12-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped (reserve marinade for later)
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, with italian seasoning (28-ounce can if you want more tomatoes)
1 teaspoon italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
oil from marinated artichoke hearts (if you used artichoke hearts canned in water, add about 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil and additional seasoning)
3 ounces fresh spinach, roughly chopped (I used about 1/2 to 3/4 of a 6-ounce bag)
2 ladles of pasta water
kosher salt, to taste (pasta water, oil from marinated artichokes, and tomatoes will add some saltiness)
shredded parmesan cheese (for serving)

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook for approximately 9 to 11 minutes, until al dente. Reserve two to four ladles of pasta water before draining pasta. Set aside.

2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat, add onions and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and continue cooking for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add in garbanzo beans and cook for 1 minute. Add artichoke hearts, continue cooking for another minute. Add in canned tomatoes, oil from marinated artichokes, and seasoning. Mix in fresh spinach and cook until just wilted, about 1 to 2 minutes. Ladle in pasta water to loosen (more or less than 2 ladles, as needed). Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste. Serve sauce over pasta and top with shredded parmesan cheese.

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