Impromptu Pasta


It was one of those Mondays today. The kind where you aren’t panicked by deadlines but still feel like you’re barely keeping your head above water. Maybe it’s because the weekend was so relaxing and the day isn’t actually that rough, it just seems like it because it’s juxtaposed with a lazy Sunday.

I had some lovely happy hour plans with a friend from high school and his wife, but had to cancel when a hiccup late in the workday kept me in the office till nearly 7 jamming out to 70’s rock while on hold with a service provider {You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave…}. By the time I got home, I was absolutely starving. Ravenous I tell you.

My pantry and fridge are virtually devoid of “snacks.” I generally have ingredients that could be assembled to make a meal, but not so much that’s ready to eat at the drop of a hat. Determined to make a delicious supper for one on the fly, I opened my fridge and saw that I had some building blocks for a quick pasta dinner.  I didn’t have a plan right away, I just started chopping.

A well stocked fridge and pantry keeps me from wasting money eating out when I am starving after a long day.  If you have some veg, eggs, maybe some cheese and a whole grain of some sort… you have a meal.  A well stocked fridge and pantry also encourages me to make relatively healthy eating choices. Yeah, this was pasta and it had oil and Parmesan, but the veg was all organic and from mostly from my local farmer’s market.  The pasta was whole wheat and I used a judicious amount of cheese. MyFitnessPal tells me that I didn’t screw up my day, even though I indulged at dinner.


Tonight I made a simple pasta with sautéed onions, garlic, cherry and grape tomatoes with a kick of flavor from crushed red pepper and some brightness from a squeeze of lemon juice. Top that goodness with some shaved Parmesan and you have a super simple but somewhat luxurious seeming meal in about 15 mins flat. The basil pictured above didn’t get used, I’ll save that for my next impromptu dinner.

Have you ever heard those home-keeping tips like “rub a little vanilla extract on your light bulbs before you have company,” “simmer orange peels and cinnamon on the stove during the holidays,” or “bake cookies if you’re trying to sell your house?”  All those tips, those tips are bullshit. Listen to me – if you want your house to smell insane, you want to be sautéing garlic, onions and red pepper in a mix of butter and olive oil ALL THE TIME.  Bath and Body Works needs to come out with a candle in this scent.


The best thing about this quick weeknight dinner (other than the heavenly smells filling my apartment) is that I have left overs for at least two more meals this week. I’ll either take some pasta to work for lunch tomorrow, or eat it for dinner after grad school in the evening (my Tuesdays are long).

I didn’t follow a recipe for this dish, but I’ll give you some tips on how to throw together a quick pasta with what you have on hand at your place.

– Start your generously salted cold water on high heat before you do anything else. By the time you’ve finished prep work and chopping, the water will be almost boiling. You’ll have just enough time to sauté everything while the pasta cooks.

– Never ever cook your pasta as long as the package instructions say you should.  They are liars and if you listen to them you’ll have mushy pasta. I subtract 2 ish minutes.

– The smaller you dice things, the faster they’ll cook. If you cut them in a uniform size, they’ll cook more evenly.

– Use mostly extra virgin olive oil, but do use a little real butter too. You’re welcome.

– Don’t cook the garlic over too high of heat, it will burn easier than the onions.  I usually cook the onions for several minutes before adding the garlic and red pepper flakes. I tossed in the cherry tomatoes about a minute before I drained my pasta, then squeezed a bit of lemon juice over the sautéing goodness just before adding the pasta to the pan.

– Toss the cooked pasta in pan with the sautéed veg. It makes it a more cohesive sauce instead of just bland noodles topped with yum.

– Salt and pepper are amazing, use them liberally. Red pepper flake and lemon juice give the dish a flavor that has some heat and brightness at the same time.

– You could make this with whatever you have in the fridge. Mushrooms, squash, peppers etc – the method of prep is the same. Kind of like an omelet or frittata, pasta is a great vehicle to help clean out your fridge.

8 thoughts on “Impromptu Pasta

    1. I bet yours was delish and bravo for using tomatoes from your own garden. I can’t wait to have my own green space someday, but for now living a block from a farmers market does the trick!

    1. Natalie – Could foodie scented candles be a possible business venture for us? Seems like its worth exploring over some vino next time I’m in Dallas!

  1. i love pasta, and this on the fly recipe is spot on! i just had a convo about pasta brands with my mom, and we’re pretty obsessed with barilla: it does “al dente” well, and reduces the chances of mushy pasta. oh and bravo on calling bullshnitzel on home fragrance tips. the smell of sauteing garlic is the shizz!

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