Not Martha

cranky night pasta

pasta with cooked kale

This pasta is my go to dinner for nights when I’m feeling lazy but I still sort of want to cook but I can’t really decide just what I want and what’s the point anyhow. I first got the recipe from Shelterrific, pasta with broccoli rabe, and have made just a few changes to make it have a bit less fat in it (I know, I know, but it’s still good, promise).

I had a week where the idea of using a little pasta water slapped me upside the head. I read How Much Water Does Pasta Really Need? in the New York Times where Harold McGee talks about the extra starchy water created after boiling pasta in a smaller amount of water. (He reminded me of the description of restaurant pasta water in Bill Buford’s book Heat.) That same week I listened to the February 7th episode of Splendid Table where the tables are turned and Lynne Rossetto Kasper talks about the importance of adding pasta water. And then Shelterrific took Harold McGee’s recipe into their test kitchen.

cranky night pasta with kale

Boil some water, a bit less than you think you’ll need. Figure out if you have some blanched kale in the freezer, if not chop some fresh kale. (Sigh deeply at how much work this is.) Mince a few cloves of garlic. (A garlic press is totally acceptable here.) Dig the crushed red pepper flakes out of your mess of a spice drawer.

Put the pasta in the boiling water and set a timer. Get out a large frying pan and pour a tablespoon or so of olive oil in the center. When the pasta has about four minutes left dump the kale into the pot (two minutes if you’re using frozen). Turn on the heat under the olive oil. Just about when the pasta is going to be ready to come out add the garlic to the olive oil pan and cook until it’s just, barely, almost starting to turn golden.

Use a large strainer or slotted spoon or something to move the pasta and kale over from the pot of water into the frying pan. Add a little ladle of the pasta water. Move around so the garlic is mixed in well. Add salt and pepper and, just before moving it to bowls, a few shakes of red pepper flakes. Ta da!

If we’re really hungry I also make this chicken breast recipe (technique?) that I first found at The Kitchen.

surprisingly moist boneless skinless chicken breasts

Heat a bit of butter and olive oil in a pan. Dredge some chicken breasts through salted and peppered flour (add chopped herbs if you have any). Put the chicken in the pan and just cook it so that each side is turning golden. Put a heavy lid on the pan, turn the heat down to low and set the timer for 10 minutes. Walk away and don’t lift the lid. After ten minutes take the pan off the heat, lid still on!, and let it sit for another ten minutes. You’re done.

· comments [14] · 03-31-2009 · categories:food · recipes ·

14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mary // Mar 31, 2009 at 9:11 am

    Sounds delish. I make a similar pasta with frozen spinach. I also add sundried tomatoes (if I have them hanging around, some kind of toasted nuts (pine, pecans, walnuts and a bit of parmesan cheese. I also add a bit of the pasta water to make a nice sauce. This is my go to recipe that is even good enough for guests if you add some shaved parmesan on top!

  • 2 Katie // Mar 31, 2009 at 9:45 am

    I love the name!! I have lots of cranky days with three very young kids and have a number of quick meals that are very satisfying..I could call them cranky day meals, too. :)

  • 3 just barrie // Mar 31, 2009 at 10:08 am

    shelterrific’s is more fatty? i’m confused. is it the olive oil?

  • 4 megan // Mar 31, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Barrie – They include cheese.

    Mary – That sounds great. Now, if I can ever have all those ingredients in the house at the same time I’ll try it.

  • 5 Aubra // Mar 31, 2009 at 10:35 am

    The pasta looks like a keeper (can’t go wrong with kale & garlic!) but DAMN, that chicken technique looks like it might change my life. Thanks, as always!

  • 6 Mary T. // Mar 31, 2009 at 11:56 am

    I love that we made it to your site — and the name “cranky night” is inspired! Especially since that usually translates to “order pizza” for us!

    I will try that chicken. We also have a guaranteed really juicy chicken breast, also no-bone, no-skin: we cook it for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees. The heat sears in all the juices. Made some last night from organic, nothing-added chicken and it was just fantastic with nothing added to it.

  • 7 megan // Mar 31, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Mary – Thanks for the extra chicken technique. I’ll try that next. Do you dredge it? Cover it?

  • 8 Dog-Eared // Mar 31, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Wow. Just to let you know, I was so excited by this recipe that I made it this evening! Amazing.

    I think the starch-water added quite a bit of flavor!

  • 9 Amanda // Mar 31, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    So funny, I made the same exact dish last night… because I was cranky that I had to make dinner for a picky kid. And he ate it with gusto. Ours was with chard from the garden and some leftover roasted chicken, but other than that, it was an exact duplicate. I adapted the recipe from *gasp* Rachael Ray and the starchy pasta water really does make the dish.

  • 10 Seanna Lea // Apr 1, 2009 at 8:48 am

    My cranky foods are often emergency 100 calories of anything, so I can get to the making of dinner. Alternatively, it is tacos. Rinse canned beans, heat with a small amount of water and lots of spices, lightly mash. Serve with what have you. It was last night’s dinner even though I wasn’t particularly cranky, so I made some vegetarian taco ‘meat’ to go with the beans.

  • 11 Rob // Apr 3, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    I’ve made a similar dish to your cranky pasta, but instead of kale, i’ve used fresh parsely, which I throw into the oil and garlic once the garlic is brown. I also had maybe a half cup or so of white wine once the parsley is wilted and just before I add the pasta water.

    Using kale or rabe or chard sounds good. Thanks for sharing.

  • 12 Auddie // Apr 5, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    I think I’m going to try both of these tonight. =D But I wonder if cranky pasta is good with spinach or chard instead of kale. Hmmm.

  • 13 SusanO // Apr 7, 2009 at 6:35 am

    I made cranky chicken last night. It was perfect! Thanks for posting this.

  • 14 Maria // Jul 14, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Is it bad that I’m making this recipe tonight solely because of the name? :-)

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