From the pantry: improv pasta

improv pastaMy new husband provides challenges sometimes.  He prefers his pasta with tomato sauce.  No variations, thanks.  And after a number of years studying in England, he doesn’t like beans.  It seems beans on toast are a Brit university staple, and they got old rather fast.  Isn’t that true of all dorm food?

And so today, I put my marriage at risk by making pasta.  Without tomato sauce.  And with beans.  My friend Danielle is trying to cook from what’s already in the house, and I’m joining her.  

For lunch I made spaghetti (Barilla Plus), with a sauce I whipped up from chicken stock in the freezer, as well as a number of other things I found there, like almonds, peas, corn, leftover chicken.  And beans.

Improv roux

Those of you into sauce making know that a roux is butter and flour toasted in a saucepan that will thicken your liquid, whether stock or milk.  I do a shortcut version where I saute sliced onion in a generous pour of olive oil, then add a tablespoon or two of flour, and stir it together until it looks a little like a paste but no longer smells like flour.  Add a cup or two of homemade stock (Ruhlman says use water if you don’t have homemade) and, voila, you have a sauce.  Taste it and season with salt and pepper.  Then add your leftovers and toss in cooked pasta.  Think of textures — the nuts add a nice crunch and mild flavor.

I’ll admit there’s a little bit of “let’s clean out the fridge” look to this, but, I admit, that’s what it is.  But I don’t want to think of it as a bald-headed stepchild.  The flavor is all in getting the seasoning of the sauce down.  Taste, taste, taste.  It was a lovely lunch, and Lauro was a good sport.

Also on the menu:  spiced blueberry sauce from the back of the fridge, with creamy plain yogurt. 

And elsewhere:

Today I’m a guest blogger on The Mushroom Channel.  Check out my warm mushroom, asparagus and new potato salad, just in time for spring.  I’ve done a number of recipes for the Mushroom Council over the years, and always love the recipe testing.

Previously on “from the pantry”

Pantry bread pudding, and then later in the week:  dried plum smoothie and turkey sliders.  What can you improvise from your pantry?


  1. This pasta looks delicious. Thanks for sharing!

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