After you’ve been away on vacation for several days, you walk-in the door and the first thing you hear from the troops, “What’s for dinner?” The fastest and easiest solution (but we know it’s not the healthiest) is to order out. I challenge you to choose another option. If you are keeping your pantry stocked with fast, easy and healthy ingredients, you can throw together a dinner as fast as any take-out order. I made this recipe after a Memorial Day weekend away. I thought about ordering pizza but I knew I had some decent ingredients in the pantry (pasta, beans, capers, anchovies) and a few leftover items in the fridge (lemons and grape tomatoes). In just a few minutes, I had a delicious meal that was faster than waiting for pizza to be delivered. I’ll admit, since my husband is a fabulous gardener, I could take advantage of the lettuce and herbs that had grown in our garden while we were away but a quick trip to the market for some salad greens is doable (you know you need milk anyway).
Penne with Beans, Tomatoes, Capers and Lemon (with a fresh picked garden salad)
1 pound of penne (or any pasta in your pantry), 1 can of beans, drained and rinsed, 1 cup grape tomatoes (cut in half) or 1-14 ounce can of no salt added whole tomatoes, 8-10 olives (any kind, cut in half), 1 flat of anchovies (drained of oil), 2 tablespoons bruschetta (I always keep Trader’s Joe’s brand in my pantry), 1 tablespoon capers, 2 tablespoons olive oil, zest of one lemon (plus juice of 1/2 of the lemon), ground pepper, fresh basil or parsley (or dried)
Cook the pasta according to the package (save 1 cup of pasta water before draining the pasta). While the pasta is cooking, saute anchovies in olive oil until melted and smooth (a few minutes). The anchovies add a very subtle flavor (honest). Add beans, tomatoes, capers, bruschetta, and olives. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the lemon zest and 1/2 cup to 1 cup pasta water, stirring until sauce is thickened (a few minutes). Add 3/4 of the cooked pasta and toss. Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and chopped basil or parsley. Add a green salad (one of the many advantages of a backyard garden) or steam some frozen broccoli.
Nutrition Note: Fresh lemon juice and zest cuts the saltiness of this dish and brightens the flavor. A serving of this recipe (about 1 cup of pasta) with salad and broccoli is loaded with vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids, folate, lycopene, fiber, protein, antioxidants, healthy oils and more. All of this goodness packed in about 400 calories . Or you could spend a larger chunk of you calorie budget on refined carbohydrate, saturated fat loaded cheese pizza (assuming 2 large slices).