pantry pasta

it’s that time of year when i start storing away pantry items like a gourmet squirrel. it seems like there is never enough time in the day to get everything done and make dinner as well. whenever the holiday season sneaks up on us, it’s so easy to resort to take-out and instant soup, but it doesn’t have to be that way. after years of perfecting my pantry stock-up, i can always have an amazing pasta dish on the table in about as much time as it takes to boil the penne (or spaghetti, or fettuccine, or rigatoni… you get the idea). aside from having a variety of pastas, rice and canned tomatoes on hand, your fridge can serve as an extension to your pantry. stock it with canned crab* (a hidden gem in my opinion. don’t knock it ’til you try it), frozen shrimp and vegetables, cheeses, half & half, and plenty of butter. all of these items have a long shelf-life and are super versatile ingredients for all sorts of quick dinners. i’m usually pretty harried when i’m making one of my fast dinners, so i find it helpful to have all my ingredients laid out on the counter so i don’t miss a step. the following recipe has become a favorite around my house and it couldn’t be simpler.
penne with pink crab sauce (makes 4 servings)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1- 15 oz can of diced tomatoes (slightly drained)- try and get them with no salt added
4 cloves garlic (peeled and chopped)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup half & half
1- 16 oz can of crab claw meat (i usually only use 1/2 the can and save the rest for another dish)
2 tablespoons italian parsley (chopped)
dried penne pasta, enough for 4 (cooked al dente and drained)

heat the butter and olive oil together in a large skillet on medium heat. add the tomatoes and garlic and cook until the tomatoes start to break down and get saucy, around 5 minutes. add the brown sugar, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. cook another 5 minutes to let all the spices mingle and then add the half & half. let the sauce reduce and thicken just enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 more minutes. add the crab and parsley and cook just long enough to heat the crab through. add your al dente penne and cook for another 2 minutes or so. serve and enjoy!

a well stocked fridge and pantry can make creating new dishes an enjoyable breeze! i also find that the more adept i become at creating dishes using ingredients like the ones in this recipe, the more money i save on my grocery bills. just a little bonus for you!

*you can find really good canned crab in the refrigerated seafood section at whole foods or trader joe’s for around $10. that sure beats the $25 per pound they try and charge us around here.

About jentarantino

i went to culinary school back in the mid 90's where i soon discovered that most of my favorite things to eat begin with celery, carrots and onions; or at the very least, one of the three. i cooked professionally for a very short time, but never stopped being a "home cook". i used the skills i acquired in school to teach myself to bake and kept up on food trends by becoming addicted to cooking shows and food magazines. i will eventually open my own soup shop, but until that happens, this blog will be my culinary outlet. i hope it inspires you to... stand lovingly over a simmering pot, wait anxiously for rising bread dough, frost cupcakes with care, marinate, brine, and most importantly... make it yourself!
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