From anchovies to penne
Stock your pantry with the building blocks to create stellar pasta dishes in a pinch
Penne with garlic, anchovies and broccoli: Stock your pasta with building blocks to create stellar pasta sauces in a pinch, then use our step-by-step formula to raise your pasta game. (Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune)
Fresh herbs: Often the secret ingredient for bright-tasting dishes. Dried herbs are terrific in long-simmered sauces, but fresh ones are chopped and added at the end for color and vibrancy.
Hard cheese: Keep a chunk or two around for grating over finished pastas. Splurge on a true Parmigiano Reggiano for a refined touch, or seek out a pecorino Romano for an authentically rustic saltiness.
Follow the formula
1. Boil: Heat a big pot of well-salted water for cooking pasta and blanching vegetables.
2. Saute: Heat olive oil in a large skillet and saute your aromatics. Any garlic, shallots or onions go in the pan now. This step should include any bacon, prosciutto or sausage too. Chopped vegetables (carrots, celery, zucchini, mushrooms or fennel) should be cooked now. If you are using tomato paste, add that toward the end of this step, and cook for 1 minute.
3. Cook pasta: At this point the water is probably boiling; cook the pasta. Add vegetables like broccoli, green beans and cauliflower to cook with the pasta.
4. Deglaze and make sauce: If you are using wine, stock or cream, or tomatoes, dried herbs and spices, add them to your olive oil pan here. This is also when you would add canned seafood. Stir while heating to blend flavors. Now you can add cooked chicken, shrimp, canned beans, fresh herbs, and fresh greens like spinach, kale or arugula.
5. Finish: Drain the pasta in a colander. Add the pasta to the sauce in the pan and heat to a simmer. Taste and season. Turn off heat, add cheese if you like, and serve at once.
In addition to the dish illustrated above, here are some favorite combinations that work with the formula:
Garlic+Crushed tomatoes+White beans+Arugula+Romano
Shallots+Tomato paste+Fennel+White wine+Tuna+Fresh basil