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Recipe: Fast pastas for these long days

  • NEW YORK TIMES
                                A fast spaghetti Bolognese, which comes together in about 20 minutes.

    NEW YORK TIMES

    A fast spaghetti Bolognese, which comes together in about 20 minutes.

Some people are perfecting their laminated pastry, their sourdough boules or, at the very least, simmering through their stash of dried beans.

But others of us are relearning multiplication tables or bouncing a baby on one hip while fielding emails with a nondominant hand. Cooking projects may call us, but they’ll have to wait. Good, fast, easy: These are the priorities.

Pasta is a sure thing. Boil water, cook noodles, crack a jar and top with cheese. But make a sauce from scratch and you’ll have something to really twirl your fork around, something good and interesting. And it will still be quick.

Enter a hardworking troupe of interchangeable ingredients: Bacon or other cured pork products render a salty, punchy fat for cooking. Nuts are toasted right in olive oil for flavor and crunch. Whole grain or Dijon mustards help create a silky sauce. Worcestershire brings the funk. Butter plays base.

These recipes clock in around 15 minutes of active time, that is, actual hands- moving, stirring, tossing, pay-attention time. With distractions — kids, email — they’ll realistically be done in about 30.

They require some chopping of ingredients, but not a ton. They all come together using two burners on the stove, one big pot and a large skillet.

The goal here is to maximize your inactive time. In the case of pasta, that means using the time it takes for the noodles to cook, about six to 12 minutes, to make your sauce. Suggested pasta cooking times will vary from brand to brand. These recipes offer a ballpark range, but refer to the box or bag for the best results.

A few other moves will set you up for pasta quickness. As soon as you’re ready to start, fill up your biggest pot, put a lid on it and set it over high heat. You’d be surprised how many minutes have been wasted watching uncovered pots come up to a boil over medium heat. Cover and crank it.

And clear the decks. This is an essential step for all quick-cooking recipes, not just the ones here. A tidy workspace is an efficient one. Clear schoolwork off the counter, stack any breakfast dishes in the dishwasher or drying rack, and wipe down your cutting board if necessary.

Now prep your ingredients. Don’t worry if you don’t have exactly what each recipe calls for. Use ground turkey in place of beef; use any sturdy leafy green instead of spinach or kale; and for goodness sake, use whatever shape pasta you have or want.

We made it through another day. Let’s cook.

FAST SPAGHETTI BOLOGNESE

  • 12 ounces spaghetti, pappardelle or other long pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more, to taste
  • 1/2 pound ground beef (preferably 20% fat), pork or dark meat turkey
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, plus more, to taste
  • Grated Parmesan, for serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium-high. Add onion, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring until beginning to soften, 3 minutes.

Add beef and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 3 minutes.

Add tomato paste; cook, stirring, until darkened, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup water, Worcestershire, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt; simmer until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.

Using tongs, transfer pasta directly from pot to skillet along with 1 cup pasta water. Increase heat to high and simmer vigorously, tossing, until sauce reduces and coats pasta, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with Parmesan. Serves 4.

PASTA WITH GARLICKY SPINACH AND BUTTERED PISTACHIOS

  • 12 ounces mezze (short) rigatoni or other short pasta
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup roasted salted pistachios, almonds or hazelnuts, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 12 ounces spinach, stems trimmed to 1-inch length, or Swiss chard, trimmed and chopped
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente.

After about 2 minutes, melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pistachios, garlic and capers; cook, stirring to keep garlic from scorching, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add spinach a handful at a time, tossing, until wilted, 1 or 2 minutes.

Transfer pasta to skillet along with 1/2 cup pasta water. Season with salt and pepper; cook over medium-high, tossing, until liquid reduces and coats pasta, 2 to 3 minutes; season with more salt and pepper. Serve topped with Parmesan. Serves 4.

PASTA WITH CHORIZO, CHICKPEAS AND KALE

  • 8 ounces fusilli or other short pasta
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 7 to 8 ounces dried chorizo, thinly sliced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bunch scallions (6 to 8), sliced
  • 1 bunch curly kale, collard or mustard green leaves, torn into bite-size pieces
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • Shaved manchego cheese, for serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium-high. Add chorizo and cook, stirring, until blistered and oil is bright orange, about a minute. Transfer chorizo to a bowl.

Add chickpeas and scallions to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until chickpeas begin to blister, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to bowl with chorizo.

Add kale to skillet, season with salt and pepper and cook, tossing, until wilted, about 2 minutes.

Transfer pasta to skillet along with 1 cup pasta water; cook over medium- high, tossing with kale, until liquid reduces and coats pasta, about 2 minutes.

Return chorizo, chickpeas and scallions to skillet; toss to combine. Drizzle with a little olive oil and top with manchego. Serves 4.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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