Ina Garten has become a quarantine hero for many, making sure to share pantry-friendly dishes during the pandemic.
One of the first recipes she shared was her broccoli and bow ties pasta, which Garten said can be adjusted with whatever's in your kitchen.
I made the Barefoot Contessa's recipe with broccolini and penne, and it only took me 15 minutes.
The simple dish — which tastes fresh and vibrant — is also a much-needed reminder of spring.
The holidays will be here before we know it, which means we'll be spending even more time in the kitchen.
I made Garten's easy pasta — which takes less than 15 minutes — when lockdown first began, and have found it to be one of the simplest dishes you can make from the Barefoot Contessa. And as temperatures dip, this bright and vibrant recipe is a much-needed reminder of spring.
Many flocked to Ina Garten's Instagram for cooking advice as the world went into lockdown in March.
"The Instagram's really given me a point of reference," she told The Atlantic back in April. "I started it thinking I just wanted people to feel like I was reaching out and supporting them, but they kept asking me questions. And I just thought, this is so great. It's like a town-hall meeting for, 'What can I do with what's in my fridge?"'
Broccoli and bow ties was the very first recipe that Garten shared with her followers that month, and it was one of the first "Barefoot Contessa" dishes I ever made.
To try and give myself some confidence in the kitchen, I decided to live like Garten for a day. I had very little cooking experience — and even fewer kitchen tools — so I couldn't help but feel a bit overwhelmed as I prepared for the project.
But Garten had promised that her broccoli and bow ties pasta was "crazy easy," and could be easily adapted with whatever was in your pantry.
Garten's dish looked so fresh and healthy, I knew it was exactly what I needed as New York City shook off the end of winter.
To begin Garten's dish, I first needed to cook my broccolini.
Like Garten, I didn't have any broccoli — which is actually my least favorite vegetable — in my pantry. But I did have broccolini, as she had used in the new lockdown-friendly version of her dish (don't ask me how I can like broccolini but hate broccoli, I too am perplexed).
I cooked the broccolini for three minutes in a large pot of boiling salted water, per Garten's recipe.
After three minutes were up, I removed the broccolini and placed it in a separate bowl.
Since most of my veggies had been coming out of frozen Trader Joe's bags at the start of lockdown (unless you count the ones on top of my combo pizzas), I was almost in awe of how bright and fresh the broccolini looked.
But I didn't throw out the broccolini water.
Garten recommends cooking your pasta in the same water. Like the "Barefoot Contessa" star, I didn't have bow ties in my pantry, nor did I have cavatappi — which she had used in the new version of her recipe.
But I did have half a bag of penne left, so I dumped it in the water and let the noodles cook for around 12 minutes.
Then it was time to whip up the sauce. But first, I needed to get creative.
Garten's recipe calls for lemon zest, but I didn't even have a toaster in my tiny, windowless NYC kitchen — much less a zester!
Thankfully, though, we live in the time of Google, and a quick search proved that all I needed was a vegetable peeler and a good knife to get the job done. So, I peeled the skin from my lemon and got to chopping.
Garten's recipe also calls for lemon juice ("freshly squeezed," of course), so I cut the same lemon in half and squeezed out some of its juice into a small bowl.
Once my lemon zest was ready, it took less than two minutes to make the sauce.
First I heated three tablespoons of unsalted butter and three tablespoons of "good" olive oil (Garten wouldn't have it any other way!) in a small sauté pan, adding the lemon zest and one teaspoon of minced garlic.
When one minute was up, I took the pan off the heat and added two teaspoons of salt, one tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice, and a few twists of black pepper.
And just like that, I had made my very first pasta sauce from scratch.
After 12 minutes were up, I drained my pasta and put the penne back into the same pot so I could mix it with the broccolini.
I drizzled my sauce right on top and made sure to add plenty of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
I didn't have pine nuts, which Garten also recommends, but next time I would definitely add them for some extra crunch.
My pasta looked as vibrant and fresh as the dish had appeared on Garten's Instagram.
Before I lived like Garten for a day, my quarantine diet had mostly consisted of frozen veggies and eggs. So to make such a pretty pasta from scratch, even one as simple as Garten's broccoli and bow ties, felt really fulfilling — especially during such a difficult time.
And Garten's dish tasted just as light and bright as it looked.
I have always been a red-sauce pasta kinda gal. Put a heaping pile of bolognese on my spaghetti and I am extremely happy. So, to be honest, I wasn't expecting to adore this pasta.
But I loved how refreshing Garten's dish tasted. The garlic and lemon added a burst of flavor, but the mild sweetness from the broccolini was still present. And the sharpness from the Parmesan cheese helped to tie everything together, adding just a hint of richness.
The pasta held up really well when I ate my leftovers two days later, and I found that it also paired great with Garten's salmon recipe.
I made broccoli and bow ties on the same day as I whipped up Garten's salmon teriyaki and broccolini, and later discovered that they were a match made in heaven.
The light and fluffy salmon is the perfect partner for the penne, and the subtle tang from its savory sauce adds a little more depth of flavor to the pasta.
Garten's broccoli and bow ties taught me some essential cooking lessons at the start of the pandemic that I've held onto since.
In those first few months of the pandemic, it was hard not to get swept up in how other people were spending their time in the kitchen. It seemed like everyone was whipping up tiny pancakes and baking fresh bread.
But Garten showed me that cooking from scratch doesn't have to be complicated. A homemade pasta sauce can take less than two minutes. You can amp up fish with just a few ingredients. And a little seasoning goes a long way with fresh veggies.
It was the confidence boost I needed as I began to realize just how much time I'd be spending in the kitchen this year. And, since then, I've experimented with even more of Garten's many pasta dishes.
This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).
Read the original article on Insider