I love pasta! One of my favorite childhood memories is watching my Nonna rolling out long sheets of homemade pasta from her hand cranked pasta machine. Over and over again, through and through, until the pasta got just the right thickness; cannelloni, raviolli, fettuccine, spaghetti-you name it, she made it. She would drape the long sheets of pasta over the back of a chair until she was ready to cut them and fill them. It was magical. Once the heaping bowl was placed in front of me, I would eat as much as I could in hopes that I would never forget the taste and smell of my Nonna's kitchen. Luckily, every time I go home for a visit, there is undoubtebly, pasta waiting for me.
So, it's true that my every day pasta experiences aren't so romantic, but I still do love a good pasta dish. There are about as many sauces you can put on pasta as the number of pasta varieties, but there is something so comforting about a thick, rich red sauce. I love using lentils as a meat substitute because they are hearty and so nutritious that once mixed with the other flavors, you don't even really know that you're missing the meat. You can put this sauce on virtually any pasta shape; semolina or gluten free-it will still be delicious! I hope you enjoy it!
1 lb pasta of your choice; reg or g/f
3 garlic cloves; minced
1 small yellow onion; diced
1 tsp dried oregano
1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1-14 oz can brown lentils; drained & rinsed
salt & pepper
Fill a large pasta pot with water and set to boil. Heat a dutch oven or medium size sauce pan on medium heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and add onions, along with a generous pinch of salt. Saute the onions for 2-3 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the oregano, tomatoes and another pinch of salt and stir. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Add the lentils and stir together. Note: if you have any red wine on hand, feel free to add 2-3 tablespoons to the sauce at this point. It will add a nice depth and richness to the sauce and the alcohol will cook out.
Let the sauce simmer together for about 15-20 minutes. Once the pasta water is boiling, add a heavy handed dash of salt. Remember, your pasta water should taste like the ocean-that's how it gives your pasta it's flavor! Cook your pasta according to package instructions. Taste your sauce and adjust seasonings if necessary. Your sauce should have reduced down a little bit and may be a little thick. If you prefer a thinner sauce, add a few spoonfuls of the pasta water to the sauce until you achieve the desired consistency.
Once the pasta is done, use tongs to gently shake the pasta and put it directly into a pasta bowl-DO NOT RINSE YOUR PASTA, PEOPLE! You will wash away all of the beautiful starch and flavor that work into the sauce! Add the desired amount of sauce to the pasta and enjoy! Sprinkle with a little nutritional yeast or vegan parm!
People are always asking me for tips on how to make quick and healthy meals for their families. They just don't have the time. By the time they get off work, pick up the kids, eek through traffic and finally get home, the last thing they want to do is spend an hour getting dinner on the table. I get it. So, here are 5 must haves in your fridge to make meal time much more manageable.
On Sunday night once my kids have gone to sleep, I start to make a loose map of meals for the week and make sure that I have some things cooked and on hand in the fridge to make meal time easier. By washing, prepping and cooking things on Sunday, I find that my week nights are much more manageable.
1. Baked Sweet Potatoes/Russet Potatoes: We love potatoes at our house, especially sweet potatoes. I usually bake up 6-8 big potatoes (roast at 425 for 30-40 minutes depending on how big) at the beginning of the week. I store them in my glass tupperware and they are ready to go. Sometimes we make baked potato night with all the fixins' or sometimes I'll dice up the sweet potato and make a quick hash. You can also slice them up, toss in a little olive oil and herbs and through under the broiler for some quick fries. Potatoes are also great taco fillings. Saute with some taco seasoning and stuff inside a crispy taco shell. Potatoes are actually quite nutrient-dense, help keep your sugar levels steady and leave you feeling full.
2. Rinsed Greens: I always, always, always have my salad spinner in my fridge full of greens; red leaf, kale, spinach-whatever. It may not sound like much, but having greens ready to go is one of my best practices. It doesn't seem like much, but rinsing and sorting through a bunch of spinach can be really time consuming, especially if it just came from the ground. With ready-to-go greens, you can make a quick salad, saute up some greens and garlic or make a smoothie. We all need to make sure we're getting our greens and making them accessible is one of the best ways to make it easy to do so.
3. Cooked Brown Rice/Quinoa: This is a must! I try to cook up a bunch of brown rice at the beginning of the week and just keep it in the rice cooker bowl in the fridge. Brown rice can take 40 minutes to cook and even quinoa can take 20 so having this already done is a huge life saver. You can do a quick fried rice with veggies and tofu or saute it up with your "pre-cleaned" greens and sweet potatoes! You can even sprinkle it on top of your salad for a heartier meal.
4. Cooked Lentils: We love lentils in our house and substitute them for pretty much everything but they can take awhile to cook. Having them cooked and ready to go will cut out a lot of prep time. You can use them in a bolognese sauce, taco filling or sloppy joes. You could also saute them with your cooked rice. Lentils are so filling and are rich in protein, folate and iron. They may be the healthiest food out there!
5. Ready-Made Sauce: Ok, here is where we can tie all of these things together; with a sauce. I always have a vegan cheese sauce and tahini dressing ready to go to top off salads or rice bowls. But use whatever is your favorite; terriyaki sauce, hot sauce, hoisin-whatever you and your family likes best. And if you don't want to make it yourself, take a little help from the store and keep your favorite topping in your fridge. A good sauce always ties the meal together so pick out your favorite and keep it on hand.
I hope this little list helped. What are some of your favorite things to have on hand?