I’ve been kind of obsessed with The Pioneer Woman lately (and World War I, but more on that later). Do you know her? She’s certainly a queen among bloggers these days and recently landed her own Food Network Show. I’d seen her name lots on other blogrolls, but with the “frontier” not really being my thing, I didn’t pay close attention. One time, though, (I’m not exactly sure when), I read one of her blog posts and found myself laughing out loud. Her posts aren’t long-winded (unlike “you know you”-ahem) and they include cheery photos with step-by-step instructions. She is not only adept at cooking (for her cowboy husband and brood of four children “on a ranch in the middle of nowhere”) but she can crack a witty joke–in a recent post she mentioned her “mammary glands”. And she calls her ingredients “The Cast of Characters”. See for yourself. She’s hilarious, seemingly down-to-earth and makes food I want to eat. And after watching three of her episodes in a row the other night, I found myself thinking a little wistfully “awww…I wanna marry a cowboy, move to a ranch in Oklahoma and have four kids!”. Well, not really, of course. That couldn’t be farther from what I actually want but maybe because it’s so far from the life I actually lead (‘cept for the cooking and blogging), I’m finding myself fascinated. By the way, I attribute the “awww… I wanna (insert life completely removed from actual life)” to my friend Barb, and our trip to Chicago last spring, when we found ourselves among a group of exuberant and wigged young girls exiting their bachelorette party at the wildly popular Spanish joint we were trying to get into. She became almost entranced with this group of young ladies, even posing for a picture with them, and suddenly declared “awww…I wanna be young and latina!”
But I digress, the following is a pasta recipe that came mainly out of my pantry, just like the episode of Pioneer Woman that I watched last night. I know, I know, I just gave you a pasta recipe, but I can’t help it. It seems to be all I want to eat this gray and dreary January(repetitive but true). Hey, at least I’m not thawing that chocolate chip banana bread I have stored away and calling it dinner!
Mediterranean Pantry Pasta
In the name of simplicity, I’m going to keep from being totally precise with this one because almost any combination or amount of the following ingredients will work, as long as you don’t use too much pasta (I used about a 3/4 of a box).
- 3/4 box whole wheat pasta, small cut (like shells or penne–preferably Gia Russa)
- 1 onion sliced
- 4-5 garlic cloves minced
- dash crushed red pepper, coarse salt and black pepper
- 1 bag spinach, roughly chopped (or two boxes frozen, thawed and squeezed dry)
- about 6-8 oven-dried tomato halves, chopped
- a handful chopped black olives (pitted Niçoise or Kalamata)
- some toasted pine nuts
- crumbled feta (about 1/4-1/2 cup, more for garnish)
- parmesan cheese
While pasta is boiling, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft but not browned (about 5 minutes). Turn down the heat and add a bit of salt if they seem to be browning. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and sauté for a couple more minutes. At this point, you can pretty much add the rest of the ingredients, except for the cheeses. Stir for a couple of minutes or until the spinach wilts slightly and everything warms. Turn the flame to low.
Before draining the pasta, scoop out a mug of the pasta water and reserve. Add the pasta and the feta to the skillet, stir and allow to melt and get creamy. Add some parmesan and stir to blend. If your final result is a little dry, add the pasta water until you get a creamy consistency. You’ll probably need at least a 1/4 cup since there is no sauce in this dish. Taste and season with a little more salt and pepper, if needed. Garnish with more feta and parmesan cheese.
Serve with crusty bread, a simple spinach salad (like my “current” fave, “currant” and parmesan) and a nice, relaxing glass of vino. You deserve it. (So did my dad, frankly, after crawling around his paranoid daughter’s dusty attic looking for mold–thanks Dad!).