Cooking dinner every night is the highlight of my day. I usually think about what I am going to whip up all day long, eagerly awaiting the end of work so that I can go home and start my culinary preparations. Sometimes people ask me if I mind that Josh doesn't cook, and my answer is always a resounding "No!". It's not because I'm some slave to domesticity - it's just that I really love the act of cooking, it's a pleasure, not a chore.
That being said, sometimes I am really burnt out after a long day's work. Luckily, simple and easy dinners are something I've had time to perfect over the years, and usually end up being a rather hodgepodge mix of whatevers available in the fridge. Last night was one of those nights where I was in no mood for heavy labor, and pasta just seemed like it would fit the bill.
I generally make marinara sauce from scratch about once a month and jar it or freeze it to use later. However, for this recipe, you could easily use store bought sauce no problem. The key is to add in some vegetables to bulk up the sauce, since it's meatless, and make it a complete dish. Last night I decided to throw in some sliced cremini mushrooms, baby spinach, and shredded carrots. Penne pasta is Josh's favorite (he's always preferred shapes like penne, farfalle, or rotini over strands like capellini, my fave), but it's also really good for a dish like this because the grooves in the pasta pick up and hold the sauce well. It's nothing fancy, but it works and it tastes fresh and summery.
Penne with Vegetable Marinara (Serves 4-6)
1 lb. penne pasta
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 jar marinara sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 C. vegetables, chopped, your choice (I usually use a combination of mushrooms, shredded carrots, red peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, red onions, etc.)
2 C. fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
Parmesiano-Reggiano, shavings for garnish
red pepper flakes, to taste
chopped fresh basil, about 3 T.
Boil pasta according to package directions in salted water.
While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a non-stick skilled over medium heat. Add garlic and vegetables (not spinach), and saute about 4 minutes. Stir in marinara sauce and spinach and cover, cooking another 2 - 4 minutes until spinach has wilted down and incorporated with the sauce.
Serve the pasta, covered in sauce, topped with parmesan shavings, basil and red pepper flakes.