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Do you find yourself wondering what to make for dinner that’s quick, healthy-ish and easy? Do you ever sometimes wish you had a personal chef, or better yet, a genie, where you could snap your fingers and have a hot, delicious meal appear on your dinner table?
Despite being a food blogger, coming up with what to make for dinner isn’t something I enjoy doing. In fact, I find it to be a rather stressful and daunting task.
Luckily, I have a small repertoire of recipes that I rotate through on a four-week basis. Having this in my back pocket allows me to get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes, even on the busiest of days.
Here are two of my favorite go-to pasta recipes. The tomato-based pasta is my husband’s favorite; it’s a light and fresh with chunks of stewed tomatoes. It has a little heat from the dried chili flakes and the Italian sausage adds a deliciously robust flavor to the dish. I like using bowtie pasta for this dish because I think it’s such a pretty shape but feel free to use any short shaped pasta like penne, rigatoni or cavatappi.
The creamy bacon, mushroom and peas pasta is my favorite. I discovered it one day when all I had to create a meal was a package of Boursin cheese, pre-cooked bacon, frozen peas and mushrooms. This most unfortunate situation turned a list of sad ingredients into one of my go-to, quick and delicious dinner recipes that often makes an appearance on our dinner menu. If you haven’t made a pasta sauce with Boursin cheese, you’re in for a treat.
SPICY BOWTIE PASTA WITH ITALIAN SAUSAGE, WILTED SPINACH AND TOMATOES
This two-pot meal can be whipped up in less than 30 minutes. Most of the ingredients are pantry staples, except for the Italian sausage. Since Italian sausage freezes well, I recommend you purchase them in bulk and freeze them. Before heading out to work, place a couple of links on a plate in the refrigerator to thaw and they’ll be ready to use at the end of the day.
½ lb. (220g) bow tie or any short pasta
2 large mild or spicy Italian Sausage, casings removed
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 540ml can Aylmer Accents spicy red pepper tomatoes, lightly drained
Sp tsp chili flakes (optional)
1 tsp Italian seasoning
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
2 large handfuls fresh spinach
1 Roma tomato, diced
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When water is boiling, add pasta and cook as per directions on package.
While water is boiling, in a sauté pan, fry the sausage, breaking up the sausage with a wooden spatula. Cook until sausage is cooked through.
Add the crushed garlic and fry until fragrant.
Add the lightly drained tomatoes, chili flakes, Italian seasoning, salt, and sugar. Bring mixture to a boil. Adjust seasoning accordingly. Turn heat down and allow sauce to simmer while pasta finishes cooking.
Add spinach and drained pasta to the simmering sausage mixture. Stir well to wilt the spinach. Immediately turn off heat.
Dish pasta into pasta bowls. Top with diced Roma tomatoes, fresh ground pepper and grated Parmesan cheese. Enjoy.
This recipe feeds two very hungry adults but may easily be doubled to feed four to six people instead.
CREAMY PASTA WITH BACON, MUSHROOMS AND PEAS
Here’s another two-pot meal. If you like a creamy, garlicky pasta, you’ll love this dish. What I love best about this recipe is its versatility. Besides bacon, feel free to change it up by adding chicken, ham or even shrimp. If you aren’t a fan of mushrooms, feel free to omit it. The best part is the flavor is not compromised.
To maximize your use of time, I suggest making the sauce while you wait for the water to boil and the pasta to cook. Since the sauce will be added back to the drained pasta and thickened slightly by simmering it with the pasta, the sauce may be made ahead of time. If making the sauce ahead of the pasta, use ½ cup chicken broth or milk instead of the pasta water.
½ lb. (220g) short pasta like rigatoni or penne
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 tbsp (14g) butter
4-5 white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 pkg (5.2 oz./ 150g) Garlic & Fine Herb Boursin Cheese
4-6 rashers precooked bacon, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
Add pasta and cook to the al dente stage. Do not overcook the pasta.
Reserve ½ cup of pasta cooking water before draining the pasta.
Drain pasta as usual.
While the pasta is draining, add the frozen peas to the pot then add the hot drained pasta over the frozen peas, allowing the steam from the pasta to thaw the peas. Set aside.
In a healthy pan, melt butter.
Once melted, add sliced mushrooms and sauté until mushrooms are brown and any liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated. Transfer sautéed mushrooms into a bowl and set aside.
In the same sauté pan, add the ½ cup of pasta cooking water and the Boursin cheese. Using a whisk, gently break up the cheese as it melts.
Once the cheese has melted, add sautéed mushrooms, and chopped bacon to the pan. Simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Remove from heat and pour Boursin cheese mixture onto the pasta. Add lemon zest and toss.
Place pot of cheesy pasta back on the stove and cook for another 1-2 minutes over medium high heat until sauce thickens slightly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately in pasta bowls topped with Parmesan cheese. Enjoy.
Serves two but recipe may be doubled to serve four.
Karen Gordon is a food blogger from North Vancouver who shares her recipe creations online at karentology.com and on Instagram at @ karen.t.ology
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