Easy Tasty Angel Hair From an Empty Pantry

The cupboards are bare. Or nearly so. My kids haven’t been here the past few days, and I’ve been very lazy about grocery shopping. I’ve lately been living on flatbread (locally-made flatbread which I top with homemade arugula pesto, whatever veggies I have on hand, maybe some diced tofu, and cheese) as well as eggs.

But I don’t feel like going to the grocery store at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night. So I grubbed around and realize I have the ingredients for three great meals tonight:

    1. Spring rolls (filled with tofu, carrots, cilantro, and bean sprouts, as I recently sprouted a bunch of mung beans). I happen to have a bunch of spring roll wrappers, rice vermicelli, and a sweet chili dipping sauce.
    2. Stir-fried bean sprouts on rice. Probably tasty, but not at all what I’m in the mood for.
    3. Angel hair with the last few tired cherry tomatoes, (jarred) garlic, fresh parsley, and fresh Parmesan. That sounds like the most appealing (and low-effort) option right now.

I went with option #3…easy comfort food. Much needed, today.

So here’s how you make yourself a quick, easy dinner with no recipe and very little on hand. And I’m sorry that all the images are sideways/upside-down. New plugin, see.

Get a pot of salted water boiling. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet. Add a glob of jarred garlic if that’s all you have, or a pile of minced fresh garlic if your pantry is better stocked than mine.

Chop up your last tired cherry tomatoes. Toss them into the skillet. If you have some remaining fresh spinach leaves, add them, too. Add any other leftover veggies you might have; I had steamed broccoli in the fridge, so I put in a few florets and mashed them as best I could.

Squeeze in a healthy dose of tomato paste and half as much anchovy paste. These are things that you should have in your fridge at all times, even if you run out of bread and milk and beans and everything else.

Stir it around. Add about half a cup of the pasta cooking water to the skillet.

Drain the pasta. Add it to the skillet, tossing everything around. Let the extra water cook off.

Shower it all with a pile of freshly-grated Parmesan. If you need to use pre-grated cheese, I understand and won’t judge, but do yourself a favor and grate it fresh if you can.

Because you’re worth it and had the absolutely shittiest and most disappointing race/run of your life today, because you ignored your tight calves and sore creaky Achilles and went into a six-hour trail race on ice/snow/mud with very little training,

and at mile 4 your calf pain shifts to a sharp Achilles pain and you know the day is over, and you are at this point down to a T-shirt and capris (no hat or gloves or any warm layer tied around your waist) and it’s 40 degrees out and you try to shortcut back through a snowy bramble field,

possibly crying with anger and disappointment, and when you’re back on trail, scratched and bleeding and limping and shivering, you reassure concerned passing runners that you’re fine and making your way back to the start/finish, and one woman looks extra-concerned and you burst into tears because THIS IS YOUR FAULT,

and she turns around and walks back along the course with you and is very kind and doesn’t even attempt a hug until you’ve gotten yourself under control and are able to recognize that you knew going into this race you had some physical issues you’ve been ignoring and at least this time you didn’t run through the pain but instead stopped when it felt significant, and then you hugged and thanked her and sent her on her way,

and because you drove four other 6-hour runners to the race, so you had to wait around another five-plus hours in the cold drizzle waiting for everyone else to finish.

anyway, toast some bread crumbs in olive oil and toss them in with the pasta. It is delightful. You deserve it. Sprinkle some fresh chopped parsley on it if you have it.

Sprinkle salt over all of it.

While it’s good and hot, eat it. Unless you are me, in which case you realize your younger son’s hamster, in his new hamster ball, has been too quiet for too long, and you discover this:

Where is the hamster??!?

Eat your cold pasta, after you finally catch and re-cage the hamster. It will still be tasty.


Print Recipe
Empty-Pantry Easy Angel Hair
Haven't shopped in awhile? Make this easy, healthy angel hair with what's in your fridge and pantry! Angel hair with tomatoes, spinach, and Parmesan.
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Heat 1-2 T olive oil in a skillet.
  3. When the oil is hot, add the garlic. Saute for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add chopped tomatoes. Add spinach if you have it. Sautee 1-2 minutes
  5. Add broccoli and smash with your spatula.
  6. Add a squeeze of anchovy paste and twice as much tomato paste.
  7. When pasta is done, splash about half a cup of the pasta water into the skillet before you drain the pasta.
  8. Heat oil in another skillet. When hot, add bread crumbs and toss until lightly toasted.
  9. Add drained pasta to the skillet. Toss with tongs. Keep on heat long enough to evaporate extra water.
  10. Shower with grated Parmesan and fresh chopped parsley. Add toasted bread crumbs and toss.
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Vegetarian Baked Stuffed Pumpkin: Thanksgiving Recipe

Ever since I glimpsed a baked stuffed pumpkin on Twitter, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of making one.

The traditional recipe, it seems, is chock-full of bread, cheese, garlic, and cream. I’m down with heaps of garlic and some cheese, but a meal of bread, cheese, and cream is really not how we eat here. I immediately thought about making a healthy vegetarian baked stuffed pumpkin recipe: swapping out bread for whole grains, adding chopped greens, cutting back on the cheese and cream. The original sounds amazing but just too heavy for us.

Oh, and then I saw a version that contains all that plus bacon. Yeah. I’d love that, very very much, but in a small dose. I will make that one day for a dinner party, but not just for my family. It would go to waste.

The wheels were still turning in my head. Whole grains instead of bread. Greens. Maybe some sausage or bacon. Definitely cheese, but not super-cheesy. Moderate cream.

And then I went for it. I went to a nearby farm for leeks, carrots, kale, spinach, and fresh sage. I had the whole Saturday ahead of me. I could finally make this thing, because we were having dinner with friends that night and I was off to an afternoon brunch the following day. I could make two stuffed pumpkins.

Cooling the rice and leeks, cooking the greens.

Cooling the rice and leeks, cooking the kale. And the pumpkin was only there for the picture; I wasn’t going to let it sit on the hot oven the whole time.

I cooked wild rice, and while it cooked, I sauteed leeks and carrots and kale. I mixed this into the wild rice in a big bowl. Then I felt like we needed more greens, so I sauteed spinach (the big leaves, not that baby-spinach stuff; the big spinach leaves from the nearby farm are so damn tasty you practically fall out of your chair when you eat them, thinking, “Oh yeah, THAT’S what spinach tastes like!!”). I chopped up the spinach once it was sauteed (why? I don’t know, maybe because I’m lazy and the raw leaves make such a huge pile falling everywhere but the sauteed leaves are a small neat pile and don’t go drifting off onto the counter and floor as I chop).

Very easy to chop the spinach when it's in THIS condition.

Very easy to chop the spinach when it’s in THIS condition.

Then I grated a lot (a lot) of Gruyere. I don’t know, I guess I just did what I thought was “the right amount” and then thought, “Why have this poor small chunk just left alone in the fridge?” so I grated that, too. I tossed the shredded cheese into the bowl. Now it was time for chiffonading the sage. Basically I just used my kitchen shears to cut it into ribbons over the bowl. I also added some fresh dill, and salt and freshly ground pepper. Oh, and chives! I forgot. Only add chives if you have some on hand and don’t want them to die in your fridge. Otherwise, you don’t need them.


Fresh sage…so good!

It's still vegan at this point. You don't have to add the cheese or cream.

It’s still vegan at this point. You don’t have to add the cheese or cream.

Toss, toss. Taste. Sprinkle of salt. Toss. Taste. Crush in 3 more cloves of garlic (which made young Ben, who’d previously loved his samples, frown and say it was too spicy). Toss. Try to simply taste instead of eat it all.

So easy! This actually was the simple part. Now it was time to cut the tops off the pumpkins, clean them out, and stuff them.

Did you know that since sugar pumpkins are a lot smaller than regular pumpkins, they are a real pain in the butt to clean out? I’m used to hacking them in half and scooping out the guts. When you’re leaving it whole and just going in through the top, it takes more patience. Maybe I could have cut a bigger hole in the top. Maybe you should, when you make it. Trust me.


Starting to stuff the sugar pumpkins.


Looks full, but we can pack more in there!


If I were a food blogger, I’d rotate this picture, wouldn’t I?

Stuff the pumpkin. Pack it right in there. To the top. Fill it. When you think it can’t possibly hold any more of the stuffing, pour cream in, as much as you’re comfortable with.

Put the lid on, make sure your rack is on the lowest setting (so the pumpkin will fit in your oven, unless your pumpkin is smaller or your oven bigger than mine), and bake for at least 90 minutes. I say “at least” because my first-day pumpkin was in at least that long and was fantastic. The next-day’s pumpkin didn’t get to bake quite as long and wasn’t as good. The pumpkin flesh in the longer-baked one was just melting into the stuffing, which I swear was bubbling with joy (and cream and melted cheesy goodness).

Oh, and take the lid off for the last 20 minutes or so of cooking. Just do it.


Yes, yes, yes. Oh, and is that a pan of triple-chocolate Ghirardelli brownies behind it? When the oven’s on, I use it. Also, this is why I should be invited to dinner more often, don’t you think?


OK, this is really unfair. It looks smaller than the beer can. It’s not. It’s a weird perspective. Also, it’s totally dense with cheese veggie rice goodness. Trust me, 4 adults and 4 children couldn’t finish half of this, even though I’m pretty sure we each had third helpings of it.


Hello, cheesy wholesome goodness. Also that gravy boat to the right contains really excellent turkey gravy that my friend had JUST made.


It gave, and it gave.

It gave, and it gave.


To serve, spoon the filling onto plates, making sure to scoop pumpkin flesh too.

Be happy.


 [gmc_recipe 3965]