How To Make Pasta Dishes

I just ate that bowl of food and I am happy & full. Looking at it again makes me even happier. And more full.

I tend to favor the one-bowl-dinners, and enjoy that combining the protein, grain/starch, and vegetable in one bowl makes it look like I am eating a massive pile of food.  I find that combining pasta with veggies and protein is crucial — one serving (like, an actual measured-out serving) of pasta looks like the teeniest amount of food if it isn’t mixed with other stuff. And when my brain thinks that dinner is only a teeny amount of food, somehow it convinces my stomach that it is still hungry shortly after dinner has been eaten. So. Well. This method of making pasta dishes clearly accomplishes a number of tasks. Also? Delicious. And combining numerous foods into one dish is much more interesting than eating them separately. I find, at least.

The texture variety that the crunchiness of broccoli brings to the relative smooshiness of the sauce in this dish is quite enjoyable, so I make pasta most frequently with broccoli. Mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, and spinach are also pretty delicious. I’m sure many other things would also be good. As always, cook with ingredients that you like so that you end up with a dish that you like. Technically, I like white pasta more, but I’m always hungry a few hours after eating it (it’s a processed, white “grain,” so it digests really quickly), so generally eat wheat pasta.

Here is what I used to make this dish:

  • a pasta-cooking pot
  • a large-ish sautee-type pan.
  • 2oz wheat pasta
  • 4oz 93% ground sirloin
  • a head of broccoli (probably 1.5 cups?)
  • a little onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, one of which was massive and the other of which was puny
  • around 2 tsp of olive oil
  • some salt, pepper, and random “italian herb blend”
  • around  half a can of smashed tomatoes (or diced, but I prefer smashed/chunk-less)
  • a cheese stick (judging is fine)
  • an egg white (I know you’re intrigued)

All right– let’s get going. Unlike many other things that I cook, this requires quite a bit of kitchen fluidity (especially if a camera is included in the mix), as everything cooks relatively quickly. Just so you’re prepared.

So start off by just boiling water for your pasta. Add salt, if that’s your style (that’s my style). While the water’s cookin’, start chopping up your veggies. Mid-veggie chopping, put olive oil in your frying pan over medium-high heat. Usually, I chop and cook the onion/garlic combo first, but since broccoli takes a bit longer to cook, I put it in the pan first. Since broccoli cooks a bit more quickly and evenly when being steamed, not sauteed, I add a little bit of water to the hot pan so that the broccoli can steam. I’m impatient.

Your pasta water is probably boiling. Put in your pasta. I have a food scale, which I love, and which stops me from thinking that a serving of pasta is however much I can fit in the pot.And please remember to note both the cooking time of the pasta & the current time. While it’s easy to tell when pasta is cooked without timing it, it’s just easier if you aren’t like me and actually look at the clock.

When the broc is just starting to look a little bit cooked, add your chopped up onions & garlic.

Now you have a little bit of time to wait. just a little bit of time, though. Why don’t you add some salt and pepper? and maybe some whatever else you have in your spice cabinet?

fresh ground really is the best.

I think I got this from Santa, but I don't really know...

Okay, now it’s officially time to incorporate the protein. Of course, you don’t need to use any, if that’s not your style. This lean ground sirloin is delicious, but the only reason I used it is because I forgot to take any meat out of my freezer before I left for work. Use whatever you want/have. This pasta preparation is as versatile as you are creative and your fridge/freezer/pantry is stocked.  Just put your meat in the pan & smash it about.

Is it time to take your pasta off the stove soon? That time might just be approaching. Or it’s not. And you can chill out a bit. And take artful (?) pictures of your pasta boiling away. Just be sure not to almost boil your camera. The Best Buy warranty on it might not cover that (…actually, it might).

When I forget to put on a timer for pasta (which is every time I cook pasta), I use this “test” to see if it’s cooked. See? It’s super droopy. 100% droopy. Therefore? I declare it cooked.

When your meat starts to looked cooked-ish, add in some smashed tomatoes. I like to search for a can of something that’s just as close to tomatoes as I can get. It’s hard. This was the best I could do at WHOLE FOODS. I guess it’s not that bad. But why must they use a water/tomato paste combo instead of straight up tomatoes? ugh. Even 98% of the “whole, fresh, organic” crap was loaded with weird chemicals. Geez. How hard can it be? I partly stray from the chemicaly stuff because I am A Snob, but mostly it’s because I just want the fresh, normal tomato taste & not the funked-up taste that often comes out of cans. Anyway. I put in about half the can. But mix it about and see how tomato-y you want it. I covered the remaining tomato stuff with tin-foil and stuck it in the fridge.

At this point, I was clearly too hungry to notice that this picture was out of focus.

Cook that until the tomato is well-integrated & everything is hot. Then add in your (strained, duh) pasta. And mix it about some more. And just cook it for a few minutes. After watching it cook for a little bit, I decided I wanted to add cheese. The only cheese that I make available in my house is pre-portioned in individual servings so that I don’t accidentally eat my weight in cheese. It’s also pretty processed, but whatever. It’s cheese. This is a reduced-fat mozzarella cheese stick, which is actually delicious and normal tasting in pasta. Sure, I wish this was fancy parmigiano reggiano, but I don’t have that. So cheese stick it is! Okay, now it’s time for what I think is a sneaky and brilliant final touch: the egg white. Adding an egg white to this pasta mash doesn’t add taste, but just brings everything together a bit more. It makes it much more of a pasta dish, rather than pasta covered with a broccoli/meat sauce. Just try it once. It totally works. At first the egg white will look a little bit crazy, but just mix it around well. It’s cooked when it no longer looks like you added any egg to the dish. And there we have it. Deliciousness. And an overflowing bowl of pasta is always well-received by both my head and my stomach. But if that bowl was overflowing with just pasta, it would be far more pasta than a person needs. Despite this being a massive bowl of food, it is 1 serving of a bunch of good stuff. Yum Yum Yum.

Enjoy! And do share your favorite pasta-dish creations, as we all could benefit from an ever expanding pasta-repertoire.

In other news, curiosity forced me to finally buy okra. I will cook it. I will eat it. I will figure this vegetable (?) out. And I will keep you posted.

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12 Comments to “How To Make Pasta Dishes”

  1. In your writing style and picture taking skills, I thought for sure I was going to see your arm throwing pasta onto your kitchen cabinet. Darn!!!

    When I first saw the dish, I almost thought I was seeing Pad Thai (which I love)!!! It’s just a bit hard to make it low-cal. Your dish looks delish!!! Plus, you could put any type of protein (chicken, shrimp, scallops, etc. . )

    Great post once again! I know I sound like a broken record, but your blog is the best and I will continue to follow so keep it coming!!!


  2. Alas, the only way I’ve ever eaten okra was fried. It was delicious, but not exactly a good long-term solution for integrating okra into my diet…

  3. Frozen okra is fairly easy- just defrost and steam (don’t overcook it though).
    It’s better if added to some pre-seasoned pasta or rice.

    Okra is… OK!

  4. OMG! Sarah! My mouth literally watered the whole time I read this post. The egg white thing is so clever! I’m going to have to try this.

  5. This makes me want to eat pasta allllll day long!!! YUM

  6. I’ve never heard of that egg white thing! I put a little goat cheese in my sauce sometimes to make it creamy.

    Tom Colicchio said he hates okra because it’s slimy– but Tiffany won him over this season. So maybe everything’s coming up okra?

    • no one’s ever heard of the egg white thing because I think i made it up.

      the goat cheese thing = magic.

      I agree with your analysis about everything coming up okra. One day soon I will stop being lazy and cook my okra.

  7. I am eating this now for dinner and I’m dying with happiness. AMAZING.

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