One of the fastest, easiest things to make in the middle of a busy workweek is a pasta dish. But what to make? Surely not cacio e pepe or spaghetti with garlic and olive oil again — although those are classic and delicious dishes, and we do love them. So, if you're in need of new cooking ideas, we're here to help.
Just how much can be accomplished in 15 minutes? Surprisingly, a lot. The trick is to strategize and stay organized. The first thing to do is to get a pot of water boiling as soon as you walk into the kitchen. There's a bit more to this first task than meets the eye, though.
For example, how much water should go into the pot? A glance at the package directions for a box of dried pasta, or the directions in many cookbooks, will tell you six quarts per pound of pasta. But in an article in The New York Times, Lidia Bastianich once told Harold McGee that one could cut that down to four quarts with no ill effects, and The Daily Meal's Colman Andrews actually recommends just three in his primer, What to Know When Cooking Pasta.
So, three then, should be fine and will definitely save you time. (And don't forget the lid!) What next? The prep, of course. Start slicing that garlic or onion, peel and dice those other vegetables, and meanwhile get the grill pan or a skillet of hot oil going. By the time it's done heating up, the prep should mostly be done (if not entirely). If everything goes smoothly, by the time you finish making the sauce, you'll have the pasta cooked, and it can go straight into the pan to finish cooking a bit more and meld with the sauce. The key, in other words, is to multitask, and if you're new to doing so in the kitchen, working on a pasta dish is a good way to get started.
So, with all this in mind, what can be accomplished? Well, for starters, Cesare Casella, who heads up the Italian studies program at the award-winning International Culinary Center cooking school, has a few classic recipes for you to try, most notably a delicious Orecchiete with Broccoli Rabe. And Vito Gnazzo, executive chef of The Leopard at Des Artistes in New York City, shares his favorite Sicilian pasta dish, Bucatini con le Sarde, a masterful blend of sweet, salty, and savory. And for people who are really on the run, don't miss out on this Angel Hair with Garlic and Lemon-Parmesan Breadcrumbs Recipe. For more, be sure to check out the slideshow.
Will Budiaman is the Recipe editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @WillBudiaman.