For last night’s poker extravaganza, I decided to go Italian. In past weeks I have done a lot of Indian food and some Mexican, so I thought my other mainstay cuisine was a bit left out.
- Pasta Primavera
- Gnocchetti with Basil Pesto
- Penne with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Asparagus
The most important part of a quickly put together meal is proper planning. I made sure to go to the store earlier in the day so I could start cooking right at 7:45. I also choose these recipes because I already had most of the items at home and they used seasonal ingredients (which are always cheaper and better quality than items that have to be shipped from New Zealand to arrive on your plate)
The most important efficiency tip when cooking Italian: Always start the pasta water boiling as your very first step. Pasta itself doesn’t take attention; it is easy to have the pasta cooking while you work on the sauces.
1. Pasta Primavera
- Can really be made with any spring vegetable. The point is for it to be colorful, veggie-ful and not heavily sauced.
- I added mushrooms and summer squash from my farm share, small yellow onions from the pantry, and frozen peppers, peas and carrots from the freezer.
All together, about 10 minutes to prepare.
2. Gnocchetti with Basil Pesto
- I always keep pesto in the house because it is a great quick thing to use on pasta or pizzas.
- Gnocchi cook in about three minutes (depending on the size) and are incredibly delicious, so it’s a good idea to keep a pack around (the ones you can keep in the pantry, not the ones that need refrigeration).
This dish is one of my favorites because it is such a crowd pleaser, but it only takes 5 minutes to make!
3. Penne with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Asparagus
- This is definitely the most time consuming dish on this list, so I make sure to start it first. It is always a big hit, so it is definitely worth the time.
- Asparagus are in season in the spring, and I wouldn’t make this dish any other time of year because asparagus do not hold up very well after picking.
- Sun-dried tomatoes are another great item to have in the house for quick gourmet cooking. I keep some loose and some soaked in oil so that they don’t char too soon with you sauté them.
At a 25 minute cooking time, this pasta is still a zip to prepare.
If guests arrive early and want to help . . . when cooking Italian, you always need freshly grated cheese. This is a great way for someone to hang out and chat with you in the kitchen without getting in the way of your sauce stirring and pasta draining.
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