Dried pasta in the pantry is like a lifeboat for a lot of us when dinnertime beckons and we haven't given it a thought all day. But when the weather is hot and muggy like this, one pot on the stove is bad enough, but adding another is unthinkable.
What to do? Raw sauces.
Especially in the summer when the gardens and markets are bursting with ripe tomatoes and fresh herbs, there's really no need to heat up the kitchen any further.
It might be something as simple as butter and Parmesan (added in that order, please, to keep the cheese from curdling). A good grind of black pepper, or a handful of minced parsley is a nice finish.
Or even just chopped cherry tomatoes, tossed with salt for a minute or two to draw juices before you add the olive oil and minced garlic (if you're sensitive to raw garlic, just rub the inside of the bowl with a cut clove). Chopped basil, parsley or mint and you're done.
And of course, there's the classic pesto, made with basil or with some other herb. A couple of minutes of grinding in a mortar and pestle or in the blender and you're good to go.
Each of these basic sauces can be varied to fit the cheese, vegetables and herbs you have on hand.
No sense in working up a sweat.
PENNE WITH SPINACH SAUCE
Total time: 25 minutes | Serves 6
Note: Adapted from "Giada's Family Dinners" by Giada De Laurentiis Salt
1 pound penne
3 cloves garlic
3 ounces goat cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more to taste
6 ounces baby spinach leaves, divided
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is tender but still firm to the bite, about 12 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
While the pasta cooks, mince the garlic in a food processor. Add the goat cheese, three-fourths teaspoon salt, the pepper and half of the spinach leaves. Blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
Place the remaining spinach leaves in a large bowl. Add the drained pasta, then scrape the cheese mixture over the pasta and toss to coat, adding enough of the reserved cooking liquid to moisten.
Season the pasta to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
328 calories; 14 grams protein; 58 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 5 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 8 mg. cholesterol; 98 mg. sodium.