I am always looking for that recipe that is quick and easy, so when we come home from a busy day, we can have a good, hot dinner on the table in about 20 minutes.
There are always things in the freezer to warm up, but sometimes we just want something fresh and hot. Mike’s favorite quick and easy meal I’ve been making lately is a simple pasta — made with garlic and fresh spinach and topped with melted, gooey mozzarella cheese. I saw someone make a similar recipe on a TV news segment earlier this year. I didn’t write any measurements down and I don’t have any idea what show I saw it on. But it just sort of stuck in my head that that would be good. We had lots and lots of beautiful tomatoes this summer so I canned a lot of spaghetti sauce, and I put lots in the freezer too. I always keep fresh garlic on hand. And I always have several shapes of pasta in my cupboard — penne, bowtie, shells, thin spaghetti. So for this recipe, all I need is bagged baby spinach and some grated mozzarella cheese, which are pretty easy to keep in the fridge and always on my shopping list.
First I start with cooking the pasta. Any shape will do. I like the bowties, but if you are in a hurry, nothing cooks faster than thin spaghetti. (I break it into shorter lengths for this dish.) For two people you need about 1/3 pound or a little more. In my deep skillet I place 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 crushed and chopped garlic clove, and 2 to 3 cups baby spinach — it wilts down to nothing and it’s so good for you. Then I add the cooked pasta, about 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water, 1 to 2 cups pasta sauce and cover the entire pan with mozzarella cheese. Then I turn on my stove and cover my pan. I bring it to a simmer and simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Then I either serve it or turn off the heat and let it sit in the pan until ready for dinner.
Of course you can change this dish up. Your favorite bottled spaghetti sauce works fine and you can use a meat sauce as well. Adding a little fresh basil to the sauce is great, too. Sometimes I just top the dish with parmesan cheese instead of mozzarella, which is delicious as well.
To go with the pasta, the quickest dessert I can make this time of year is apple crisp. I have lots of apples, and I make up my topping ahead and keep in the refrigerator. I peel and slice 2 or 3 apples and put them in a small casserole. Then I add about a tablespoon or 2 of water. Next I top with about 1/4 cup or more of the topping and put it in the microwave for about 5 minutes or until the apples are tender. It makes a delicious ending to dinner.
Quick and Easy Pasta Florentine
1/4 to 1/2 pound pasta, cooked (Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water.)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
2-3 cups baby spinach leaves
1-2 cups favorite spaghetti sauce
1-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese or 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Cook your favorite pasta. In deep skillet layer olive oil, garlic, spinach, reserved pasta water, spaghetti sauce, and cheese. Cover and bring to a simmer and simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Let rest or serve immediately.
Apple Crisp Topping
1 cup oatmeal (I like old-fashioned.)
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter
Combine dry ingredients into bowl and cut in butter. Rub together with fingers and store in plastic bag in refrigerator. This keeps very well. This will make a large pan. If you want to make 1 to 2 servings, just sprinkle about 1/4 cup or more on 2 or 3 sliced apples. Add 2 tablespoons water and cook in microwave 4 to 5 minutes or until apples are done.
Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.