Italy: the home of slow food is also home to the ultimate fast food: namely, pasta. A satisfying plate of pasta can be faster, easier, and tastier than a takeaway and it will probably be a lot healthier too. All of the recipes listed below, as requested by our army of helpxchangers, take no longer than it takes to cook the pasta itself; and if you can boil water you can cook pasta. Buon Appetito !!
Pasta alla Crudaiola (pasta with raw tomatoes)
This is a light and refreshing pasta dish, perfect for hot summer days. The one thing crudaiola dishes have in common is uncooked tomatoes but other than that you can use your imagination. I marinated half a cup of olive oil with a couple of chopped garlic cloves, some chopped toms and splash of balsamic vinegar with some basil and salt and then tossed some just cooked penne (although any short pasta will do) in the mix and put some grated cacioricotta (salty semi-hard cheese made with sheep and goats milk) on top. You could use any other cheese (fresh mozzarella would be good) or leave the cheese off, add capers, oregano, rocket, tuna etc etc.
Pasta alla Norma (aubergines in tomato sauce)
This would probably push my 11-minute time limit, if I didn’t have a supply of ready roasted aubergines to hand. Whenever the oven is on I usually roast some diced aubergines to be used in dishes such as this, but you could just fry the chunks.
Put a pan of water on to boil and either fry or use ready roasted chunks of aubergines (one-cm cubes) with a chopped garlic clove and chilli. When the aubergines cubes have browned add passata or tomato sauce. When the water is boiling add salt and then add penne. When the pasta is cooked, drain and add some cacioricotta (or another cheese if you can’t get hold of it) mix and then pour over the sauce and mix well, with some basil before serving.
Courgette and lemon pasta
Pasta of your choice (penne or farfalle are good)
Three or four zucchini for two people
Garlic clove or two
Juice and zest of one lemon (you may find this too lemony, so go for half first and dips a bit of pasta in to taste before adding anymore
Good helping of pecorino or parmesan
Good splash of olive oil
Whilst boiling water for pasta, cut zucchine in half lengthways then thinly slice the whole way down, so you have lots of little crescents. Heat olive and add garlic and zucchini with a sprinkle of salt to the pan. You may want to do the zucchini in batches, depending on how many you are cooking for, but you want them softened rather than coloured. Keep stirring, to ensure all the zucchini are cooked. They should be ready when your pasta is. Add the lemon juice and seasoning and stir and then add the strained pasta on the top. Before mixing, add the cheese on top of the pasta and then mix everything up ensuring that the pasta is coated with everything.
Pasta alla Puttanesca
good sized onion
chilli (fresh or dried)
anchovy fillet (I don’t use it but if you want to be authentic go ahead)
pasta (usually spaghetti but penne also works well)
tomato (sauce, passata or fresh)
capers and black olives (as many as you like)
pecorino or parmesan cheese
herbs (oregano, parsley or basil)
Sweat onions, garlic and chilli in oil. If using anchovies cook this also until they go mushy. Then add tomatoes and simmer until reduced. When sauce is a good consistency add capers, olives and seasoning. Mix cheese with cooked pasta then mix with most of the sauce reserving a little to pout over each bowl of pasta and some more cheese if you want.
Pasta with spinach, mushrooms and sun-dried toms
This is my version of a meal I once had at Terre à Terre in Brighton – if you’ve not been and want to treat yourself to some amazing vegetarian food, I’d thoroughly recommend it.
I have recreated this dish several times using fresh parpadalle (any wide thin pasta would work well), mixed wild mushrooms, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and pine nuts but last night I changed the spinach for beetroot leaves, button for wild mushrooms, walnut instead of pine and I used dried spaghetti but it still worked pretty well.
Sweat mushrooms and garlic, until tender…don’t overdo it. Add leaves and cook until wilted. Add sun-dried tomatoes, seasoning and nuts. Mix with cooked pasta and add more olive oil if required.
I mentioned fagiolini con pomodoro e cacioricotta the other week but another French bean dish, which is quick and easy and utterly delicious is pasta alla Genovese. As the name suggests this dish involves pesto…the ultimate fast food pasta sauce.
To make, boil water in a really large pan and then top and tail some french beans and peel a couple of potatoes before slicing them into batons of a similar size to the beans. When the water is boiled add linguine, beans and potatoes. Whilst everything is cooking make some pesto using just basil, garlic, oil, cheese and seasoning. When the pasta is cooked, drain and stir in the pesto.
Pasta alla boscaiola (mushroom, cream and tomato pasta)
Boscaiola, means from the woods, and can refer to any dish, which contains mushrooms: most often pizza and pasta. Recipes vary greatly – some are just mushroom-based whereas other include tomato and others tomato and cream. This is my attempt to recreate the version served up at a local osteria.
Pasta of your choice (I tend to use penne, but parpadalle works well too)
3 tbs olive oil
handful of fresh or frozen peas
knob of butter
splash of red wine
150 ml of cream
500g sliced mixed mushrooms
1 can of toms or passata
Heat the oil, add the onions and cook over moderate heat until wilted. Add the mushrooms and butter and cook for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and a splash of red wine and simmer gently until thick. Add peas after about six minutes and add the cream to the sauce when the pasta is ready. Season with salt and pepper and stir the sauce off the heat to ensure the cream gets mixed well. Add cooked pasta to the sauce (whatever variety you fancy) and parsley. Mix well and serve. For a non-vegetarian variety you could fry off some smoked pancetta cubes before adding the onions.
Risi e bisi, is so called because it uses small pasta shapes that are rice shaped, although any small pasta shapes will do. In our house it’s called cheesy peasy pasta and is a really good comfort food. Fry an onion, add peas, pasta shapes and stock and cook over low heat until cooked. Keep stirring from time to time and add more stock if necessary. When the pasta is cooked add cheese mix well.
I guess that spaghetti con aglio, olio and peperoncino is the ultimate easy pasta…just heat oil and add a couple of thinly sliced garlic and a thinly sliced chilli and heat over a low heat until the garlic is golden brown. Add salt and remove from the heat before adding parsley. Drain cooked pasta and toss with the garlic and chilli oil and serve either with or without cheese.
Other pasta pronto dishes include many that have flavoured tomato sauces. These include penne arrabbiata (garlic and chilli providing the oomph) spaghetti all ‘amatriciana (heat some diced pancetta before adding onions and tomato sauce for a slightly smokey sauce) or add anchovies for a full on fishy-flavoured sauce.
These are our favourite fifteen-minute pasta dishes. What are yours?