Recipe books rarely assume you, the cook, are feeling hungry yet simultaneously disinterested in actually making any food. The following ideas are, quite frankly, simple and obvious. This is not gourmet or even ‘quite nice’ cooking. This is making a hot and filling meal on a day when you wish it were already made. You will need only one saucepan and a limb willing to do some half-arsed stirring.
Start with a fresh or “Quick cook” pasta to save time. Tortellini and Ravioli are particularly good for very speedy meals because the filling provides plenty of flavour. It is then only necessary to stir a bit of olive oil or butter or into the drained pasta. Add a cheese of your choice and a bit of black pepper, and it’s ready to eat.
Vegetables can be boiled in the same water as the pasta. Peas or sweetcorn only need a few minutes. Vegetables with slightly longer cooking times – broccoli, carrots, cauliflower etc. can be added to the pan slightly ahead (i.e. 3-4 mins) of fresh pasta, or throughout the cooking time of the dry “quick cook” pasta. Most supermarkets sell bags of mixed fresh or frozen cut-up vegetables (e.g. green beans, carrot, broccoli or cubes of squash/sweet potato). These are pricier than buying individual vegetables, and annoyingly the packaging is often not recyclable. However, it is obviously wonderfully convenient on a lazy day to be able to chuck the vegetables straight into the pan.
In the following recipe, the sauce is made at the end using the heat of the pan. The ingredients are listed per person, so you can easily adjust to serve yourself or many people. On a less lazy day, you can make your own pesto instead of using a shop-bought one.
One-pan spinach and cheese pasta
Time: 15 minutes (less with fresh or quick cook pasta)
60g cream cheese or ricotta (dairy or vegan)
3 tablespoons green pesto
40g spinach leaves (or measure as “large handful”)
1 tablespoon Parmesan or hard cheese
N.B. Everything above should be easy to get hold of in versions suitable for most dietary requirements e.g. gluten-free pasta, vegan or “free from” pesto, vegan cream cheese. If you have found a particularly good vegan cream cheese, please recommend in the comments. I have tried some which have convincing textures, but am yet to find one with an appetising smell.
- Cook the pasta in a saucepan according to the recommended timing on the packet. Drain the pasta and return to the pan. Place the pan back on the turned off, but still hot hob, or on a very low heat.
- Stir in the spinach, cream cheese/ricotta, and pesto and keep stirring until the spinach has wilted and the pasta is evenly coated.
- Empty into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan (if using) and black pepper.