Monday, July 16, 2012

Confessions of a Mediocre Cook: Super Summer Supper

When it comes to summer meals, I much prefer non-fussy recipes that fling together in a few minutes. I’m thrilled to report that the girls and I found a new favorite that meets these requirements: Ham and Broccoli Pasta Toss. The basic recipe comes from Cheap. Fast Good!, by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross, a wonderful cookbook that I highly recommend.

This recipe is quite flexible, so feel free to add other ingredients you have on hand. We’ve only made it with ham, but I’m sure chicken would be delicious, too. Other additions might include peas, sliced fresh mushrooms, or sliced black olives.

And talk about versatility! I served it for supper one night this week, and then breathed new life into it the next day for lunch.

Here’s the basic recipe, with my alterations in parentheses:

Ham and Broccoli Pasta Toss
(I halved the recipe since I was only cooking for the girls and myself)
1 pound short pasta, such as rotini (which I used)
1 ½ cups broccoli florets
1 cup diced ham
1 ½ cups cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half or quarters (I quartered them)
2 cloves fresh garlic (I used garlic powder)
½ teaspoon dried basil (I used Italian seasoning)
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese (I just threw some in)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta in boiling water according to package directions. Three minutes before the pasta is done, add the broccoli to the boiling water. If you haven’t yet diced your ham and cut your tomatoes, do it while the pasta cooks and then put ham and tomatoes in the serving bowl. Peel and mince the garlic, and then add it and the basil to the bowl and stir to mix well. When the pasta and broccoli are done, drain them in a colander and shake the colander well to remove as much water as possible. Add pasta and broccoli to the serving bowl and sprinkle with olive oil and Parmesan. Toss until the cheese melts. Season with salt and pepper and serve at once.

For lunch the next day, I served the pasta cold as a salad. I merely mixed together some ranch dressing and mayonnaise, which I stirred into the bowl of leftovers. I also added some chopped cucumber. To really jazz things up, you could also add grated carrot, diced bell pepper, chopped onion, shredded Cheddar, what have you. If I’d used chicken as my meat choice, a little seasoned salt would be a tasty option.

Quick, versatile, flexible, scrumptious. Yep, this one’s a keeper.

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