I can’t believe how early the daylight starts to fade away this time of year. It’s like the season is throwing a blanket around me and urging me to go home and snuggle into bed. I’m not new to this time change thing but it seems like the impending darkness is something I choose to forget in lieu of getting that extra hour of sleep.
The problem with feeling sleepy so early in the evening is that I don’t feel like spending time in kitchen whipping up cozy meals for two for longer than fifteen minutes. Mind you I’ve always gone the fast and fresh route as far as my meals are concerned any time of year. That is not too say that I don’t greatly admire people who devote their time to long, involved, home cooked meals. My Mom’s cabbage rolls are heaven on earth but the hours she puts in to make them is something I just can’t fathom. I’ve got things to do, people to see, places to be! And truly, there is nothing wrong with fast meals… as long as they are delicious. I’m sharing two of my go to Italian recipes for quick weeknight dinners great at any time of year!
EASY TOMATO SAUCE RECIPE
The key to this sauce is that you will not be cooking but rather warming all the ingredients in order to keep the sauce tasting as fresh as possible. So start cooking your pasta and half way through you can begin the sauce.1 pint of cherry tomatoes halved 1 clove of garlic peeled 1/4 cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil 1/4 cup of parmigiano reggiano shredded small bunch of basil torn salt and pepper to taste Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 10 minutes
1. Place the oil and clove of garlic in a pan and turn the heat on medium-low. Olive oil has a low smoking point so you don’t want to overheat the pan. You are simply warming the oil and infusing it with garlic. If you want a stronger taste to the garlic then feel free to chop it, otherwise just leave the clove whole. This should take only a minute or two.
2. Take out the garlic clove and throw in the cherry tomatoes and torn basil leaves. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir to warm them through. Be sure that the tomatoes don’t over cook and start to fall apart and shrink.
3. Place the cooked pasta, with a small amount of reserved pasta water, in the pan with the tomatoes. Toss with the sauce making sure to coat the strands with the warm olive oil and sprinkle with the parmigiano reggiano.
I like to serve this sauce with spaghetti or linguine. That way the light sauce isn’t overwhelmed by a heavy pasta.
SPINACH AND WALNUT PESTO RECIPE
This sauce is made in minutes as long as you have all your ingredients on hand. It’s a riff on the basil and pine nut pesto which are harder to locate. I often make this pesto in large quantities and freeze in ziploc bags for later use.2 cups of baby spinach washed and packed down 1 clove of garlic peeled 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 1/2 lemon 1/2 cup walnuts toasted 1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese shredded salt and pepper to taste Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 10 minutes
1. Place spinach, walnuts, garlic, cheese in a food processor. Pulse together until coarsely chopped. Scrape down the sides before proceeding.
2. Add oil and squeeze the lemon into the mixture. Process until smooth. Scrape the sides then season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Drain pasta and coat with the pesto.
I like to use heavier pastas like penne or rotini for this sauce. The pesto sits nicely in all those tiny crevices.
Both versions of sauce with pasta reheat nicely for lunch the next day. Sometimes I’ll add cooked chicken breast or pre-cooked shrimp before reheating. I hope you give these a try and enjoy!