Monday Night Pantry Pasta Pretty Damn Quick

uh yes please

I picked out glasses yesterday afternoon.  Prescription sunglasses, to be precise.  I can’t really tell you what they look like though.  I’m not even really sure.  That’s the problem with having to try on glasses when you don’t wear contacts and are otherwise mostly blind.  But hey, in about 3-4 weeks when they come in, maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised!  Or horrified.  We’ll see.  Ha.  We’ll see.  Get it?  Yeah.

So after that, I walked down to Kerrytown and waited for Josh to pick me up.  It’s after five at this point.  Then we have to go get the dog because yes, my dog goes to doggy daycare once a week so he can run around and socialize like the wild beast that he is.  Of course, to get him, we have to drive through all the construction down on Main Street by Stadium and then once we’ve got him, we have to stop at the bank.  And then drive through rush-hour traffic through town because there’s no way we’re hitting I-94 at this hour and by the time we get home, settled, mail on the table, shoes off the feet, bathroom break taken care of, dog fed, etc, etc, etc, we’re looking at almost 7pm and time to make dinner and I’m starving.  I also have a lot of freelance work to do—videos to edit, DVDs to burn, that sort of thing–and don’t want to be on my feet all night cooking.  And then there’s that nagging little voice that says, “Screw cooking; order a pizza from Aubree’s.  With breadsticks.  Don’t forget my breadsticks.”

But no.  I persevered.  I was going to make dinner, damnit, not spend $30 on pizza.  Besides, I had tons of pasta (thank you, Costco) and some ground beef we’d picked up from the farmer’s market on Saturday and some other stuff here and there, I could probably put something together.  Oh and some frozen bread, because Josh has this thing where we can’t have pasta without some sort of garlic bread and he likes this Alexia frozen garlic baguette stuff and we had one left.  And in the fridge I had a bunch of fresh basil leftover from making the red pepper cannellini bean dip and a nub of parmigiano reggiano and on the counter was a quart of cherry tomatoes leftover from I don’t even remember what–maybe antipasto skewers–and of course, there’s always garlic and olive oil and…yeah.  Yeah I think we can do this.

The resulting concoction was this pasta, which is kind of a pesto-beef penne.  I didn’t want to make a red sauce because..well, sometimes you just get bored with red sauce.  Plus, I didn’t want it to overpower the flavor of the beef, which I really wanted to taste because we hadn’t bought meat from this vendor before and I really want to know how good it is.  And I didn’t want to make a real pesto because I wanted something lighter than that, with less olive oil.  So I made sort of a pesto-inspired pan-sauce and it worked out really well.  The flavor of the basil stood out and just behind that was the parm and the grassy flavor of the beef plus the garlic and the sweetness of the tomatoes and a pinch of heat from red pepper flakes.  It was light and tasty and just a really good pick-me-up after a long day, especially because it only took as long as boiling water and cooking the pasta.

For Josh’s bread, I figured if I’m going to use frozen, pre-baked garlic bread, I might as well dress it up a bit and tie in a bit of the flavor from the pasta into it as well, so I topped it with the basil-parm mixture before putting it in the oven.  It worked out very well–dressed it up a bit, so to speak.  If I was making garlic bread from scratch, I would halve a baguette lengthwise, slather it with butter and then sprinkle the basil mixture on top before baking it.

Pesto-Beef Penne, more or less
serves 4

Basil-Parmigiano Mix
2 c. basil
4 oz parmigiano regianno
2 tbsp olive oil

1 pound penne, cooked according to package directions
1/2 c. pasta water reserved after cooking penne
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp each olive oil and butter
2 tsps salt, divided
2 tsps pepper, divided
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 c. chicken stock or water
1 quart cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 pound ground beef
1 tsp red pepper flake (adjust to your taste)

1.  Put basil, parm and olive oil in a food processor and blend until coarse and crumbly.  Set aside (smear a little on bread if you like).

2.  In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt butter into the olive oil.  When the butter’s foam subsides, add in cherry tomatoes.  Sprinkle with 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper and oregano.  Let cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes.  Add in mushrooms and garlic and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes.  Add a bit of chicken stock or water if more moisture is needed to keep things from sticking.

3.  Add in the ground beef, cutting into small pieces.  Sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper and red pepper flake.  Cook until browned.

4.  Spoon half of the basil mixture into the beef and stir together.  Stir the remaining basil mixture into the cooked pasta and then add the pasta to the pan with the beef.  Stir in the reserved pasta water, combining all elements in the pan thoroughly.

Serve and eat with bread :-)  Can’t have pasta without bread, after all.

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