Monday, October 8, 2012

Cajun Pasta Fresca

This recipe originally came from allrecipes.com.  It's one of our go-to recipes and makes enough for lunch leftovers.  The fresh tomatoes give the dish a bright flavor and the cajun seasoning brings complexity and spiciness.

Tonight, we were faced with the all too common dreaded question, "What are we going to do for dinner?"  We both don't make it home from work until 6:30 pm and we've been so busy lately, we haven't meal planned and grocery shopped properly for months now(!)  Eating out is just too easy a solution for our tired brains.  But, we're getting better about finding creative solutions, because let's face it, agreeing on a casual dining restaurant (no fast food, thank you very much) and driving wherever it is ends up being a hassle in and of itself.

Okay, back to tonight.  The husband suggested (somewhat jokingly?) Panda Express because it's his #1 favorite option.  The problem is (and he knows it very well) I now loath Panda Express.  I got tired of it a year or so ago as I started trying to eat more vegetarian options when we went out.  So, that means what I end up ordering is a Panda Bowl with mixed veggies with eggplant.  Not very exciting (even if he will let me steal a bite or two of his orange chicken - my achilles heel!)

I digress, so, I told my husband he could take himself to Panda Express and I'd scrounge the kitchen for something suitable for myself.  Apparently, he didn't want Panda Express badly enough to venture solo.  So, he made a cup-of-noodle-soup-like-thing, which does not appeal to me at all.  I started thinking about what meager ingredients we had, what I could make with the least amount of effort, but still was somewhat healthy.  I then remembered the pint and a half of three different varieties/sizes of tomatoes my friend brought me last week from her backyard garden (I'm so envious!).  I had no idea what to do with all of those garden-grown tomatoes until tonight when I also remembered my Cajun Pasta Fresca recipe that calls for 7 Roma tomatoes, and I mentally calculated that the tomatoes I had were equivalent in volume.  I felt adventurous and inspired to make it work, it sounded like a fun challenge.

Apparently I've never posted this recipe!  Bizzare.  I must have taken pictures of it several times but never actually sat down and wrote the recipe.  It's okay, because I linked to the original recipe above, so you can follow it there.  Just know that I omit the parsley and always half that recipe for the two of us (also my husband is a complete omnivore, so I'll cook up some chicken breast on the side to mix in with his portion).  It gives us plenty, plus left overs for each of us for lunch the next day. Below I'm giving you the recipe as I made it tonight, and it turned out just as good (dare I say better?).

Ingredients:

1/2 box dried spaghetti (we like Barilla Plus in the yellow box because it's multigrain)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped (my mincer was dirty, otherwise I would have opted to use that)
1 1/2 pints of fresh from the garden tomatoes in any variety and combination, rinsed and chopped to no bigger than 1 inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or less, depending on your salt preference)
1 1/2 teaspoons cajun seasoning (we use McCormick's)
1/4 cup shredded colby jack cheese ('cause that's what I had in my fridge, and I'll probably opt to use it next time as well)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (the kind in a can, 'cause that's the only kind I had - the legit kind is always preferable)

Directions:

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Break spaghetti in half and dump in boiling water.  Cook 8 minutes, or al dente.  Drain and set aside.

While waiting for the water to boil, start heating up oil in large skillet over medium heat.

Briefly saute garlic in heated oil until fragrant, 30-60 seconds. You do not want it to brown.

Stir in tomatoes with their juice and sprinkle with salt, and mix up.  Let the mixture bubble for several minutes, then mash slightly with a fork.  It should be really easy.  If it's not, let the mixture continue to bubble a few more minutes and try again.  Once the whole mixture is nice and mashed, stir in cajun seasoning and cheeses and mix.  Add spaghetti and toss until coated.  Serve it up and enjoy!

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