A recipe from a non-cook, am I serious? Yes, I am. I love to bake, but cook? Not so much. Still, we do need to feed ourselves… especially when working on production and there’s no time to be creative or experimental in the kitchen.
I do know good cooks, though. I even married a fabulous one (lucky me)! One of my friends cooks like a painter, crafting food – primarily visually and sans recipe – in the pot, building from base to highlights. Another friend cooks like an opera, orchestrating numerous exotically complex dishes that all make it to the bedecked dining table for the grand finale. Again, no recipe. My hubby cooks like a cross between Scientist and Treasure Hunter, finding food gems (in cupboard or fridge that looks empty to me) and fusing them together with daring sense of experimentation and innate sense of what flavours and textures can truly compliment each other.
Then there’s me. I follow the recipe.
A friend taught me a pasta recipe that is so adaptable, that I’ve made 31 different versions of it. As an experiment one year, I made the “same” pasta every night for the entire month of January – each one being different every night. Here ‘tis for you to try out your own variations:
Deb’s 31-Days of Pasta
(a.k.a. “The Only Pasta Recipe You’ll Ever Need”)
1. WARM THE OIL IN THE SKILLET
You can use Olive Oil, or experiment with Other Oils. Use a large skillet (a lot will be going into it… and it looks cool to use too).
2. SEASON THE POT
Can add crushed or sliced Garlic, and/or Green Onion.
3. ADD MEAT (optional)
I typically don’t use meat and instead add protein instead (at step 5). If you choose to use Meat (Chicken, Ground Beef, etc.) then you have to brown it in the skillet first.
4. ADD VEGETABLE(S)
Cook the harder vegetables first so they soften. There are plenty of vegetable choices to go with; some or all of: Carrots, Celery, Sundried Tomatoes*, Sweet Peppers (green, yellow, orange, and/or red), Zucchini, Mushrooms, Peas, Mini Tomatoes.
*For sundried tomatoes, I pre-cook them in the other pasta pot water before I cook the pasta so the tomatoes are soft enough for the skillet combo, and the flavour infuses into the pasta too.
5. ADD PROTEIN (optional)
Again a lot of choices here: Fish (like canned Tuna or Salmon), Nuts (like Almonds, Pine Nuts, etc.) and/or Chickpeas. I’ve never tried Beans, but you could… there’s a whole variety of beans to experiment with. You could also go entirely vegetarian and skip the protein step, too.
5. ADD SPICES
Off to the spice rack and sprinkle in a mix-n-match of spices like Basil, Rosemary, Thyme, Pepper, Cilantro, Dill, Parsley, Oregano, Tarragon, etc. or use a spice blend like Italian Seasoning or Herbs de Provence.
Turn the heat down to simmer and cover the skillet; it’s time to…
6. COOK PASTA (in another pot)
Oh, the varieties of just pasta out there! Choose some or even a combo of: Penne, Fusilli (spirals), Farfalle (bow ties), Rigatoni, Shells, Spaghetti, Linguine, Macaroni, Ruote (honeycombs) – or even Orzo or Risotto – and cook according to the instructions on the pasta package.
7. COMBINE PASTA AND “SKILLET COMBO”
Drain the pasta and add to the skillet, mixing it with the meat/veg/protein.
8. ADD FINAL FLAVOUR (optional)
If you have fish in the skillet combo, squeeze the juice of a Lemon or a Lime into the creation. Another final flavour you could use is Parmesan (aka “Shaker”) Cheese sprinkled on top.
…and you’re ready to serve! Enjoy.
So, what do you think? Do I cook like… an organized person (who thinks in layers)? Or a baker (who loves to put all the parts into one container)?
At any rate, over to you now. Ready to experiment with a month of pasta variations? Write down the combos that you love the best, and if you find one you didn’t like – no biggie – there’s always tomorrow to try again! You can even start with February; you’ll only need 28. 🙂
Cheers & happy cooking variations to you,
– – – – – – – – – –
Deborah (Deb) Patz is the author of Write! Shoot! Edit! for teens and Film Production Management 101 for the industry – both books are published worldwide by MWP. She’s also part of the editorial board for Prism International. She’s cooked variations of this recipe a couple of times this month.
WHERE IS DEB? (upcoming events and appearances)
Feb. 9/19 – Author Participant with Biz Books at Digital Media Youth Expo, North Vancouver BC
March 2019 – Emerald City Comic Con, Seattle WA
July 2019 – UFVA Conference, Minneapolis, MN