Spaghetti Magic

Some nights, even when you love cooking the way I love cooking, the thought of making dinner makes you want to die.  Or give up on eating altogether.  Or order a pizza from papa johns.  (Which is totally okay to do.  We do it all the time)

But when your life is crazy and your body is exhausted, the last thing you really need is pizza for dinner.  Again.  If you can muster the energy to cook for 12 minutes, a box of spaghetti noodles and a tiny bit of creativity can get you through some pretty dire kitchen moments.  Whole wheat pasta will also work — although to be honest I hate whole wheat pasta, it tastes gross to me and I’d rather have half as much regular delicious pasta — or you can try another alternative like a gluten free pasta or my love the spaghetti squash if you just don’t eat regular dried pasta anymore.

I’ve already shared my favorite tomato sauce and meatball recipes, which I try to keep stashed in the freezer for emergencies like this.  A half-dozen meatballs and a quart of leftover tomato sauce can make a bit of boxed spaghetti sing.

spaghetti and meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs Glamour Shot

You can also make a quick and easy carbonara if you have eggs in the fridge, a hunk of Parmesan cheese, and bacon and green peas in the freezer.  (I keep bacon and green peas in the freezer for this very purpose, and also because chicken pot pie requires about 2/3 a bag of frozen green peas, and what are you supposed to do with the rest?)  Here’s the recipe I use.


Carbonara Glamour Shot

But when there are no meatballs in the freezer and you don’t want to go into a food coma after eating (that carbonara is delicious but it is maybe a little too delicious.), there’s this perfect bite of summer:

Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Mozzarella, and Basil (also known as Spaghetti Caprese)

caprese pasta

Caprese Close-up (here you’ll see that I added roasted shrimp for protein)

This is the easiest dinner to cook but it tastes fresh and fabulous.

Here’s what you need:

Spaghetti (or substitute)

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1 package (or 4 sprigs) fresh basil, chiffonade style (roll it up and slice it into skinny strips like this)

1 container mozzarella pearls, or larger mozzarella balls that you can slice up

2 cloves garlic, minced

olive oil, salt, and pepper

Here’s what you do:

The magic of this meal is that you do everything in the amount of time it takes to cook your pasta.  Get a head start by chopping your garlic and slicing your cherry tomatoes in half while you wait on the water.

Boil a pot of salted water for your pasta.

Warm 2 -3 Tbsp. of olive oil into a large skillet to medium heat.

Put your pasta in the water — you now have 8-10 minutes until dinner is served.

When the oil is warm, throw the garlic into the oil and let it brown for 1-2 minutes.  Watch for burning.

Throw your chopped cherry tomatoes into the hot oil, stir well, shake salt over the entire pan and turn off the heat.  The tomatoes will soften in the hot pan.

About two minutes before the pasta is ready, put half of your basil into the pan to flavor the oil and tomatoes.

When the pasta is done, drain well and then drop it all right into your skillet full of tomatoes and garlic.  You may want to add extra oil if it looks like it needs it.

Stir in the remaining basil and the mozzarella pearls.

Salt well and you are ready to eat!


While it has a bit of a bad rap these days, pasta is still my go-to ingredient when I want a fast, easy dinner.  What about you — are you a pasta eater?

This post is number 28 of my #write31days project 31 Days in the Pink-Briefcase Kitchen. You can follow along with the series each day in October. An archive of posts is available here, or just click on that big button on the right sidebar.


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