Pasta shells with lamb, pesto and peas. Henri Hollis
Photo: Henri Hollis
Photo: Henri Hollis

5:30 Challenge: Make this winter weeknight pasta that tastes like spring

Make dinner easy with this recipe for pasta shells with lamb and peas

When you think of a pantry pasta recipe, you likely think of heating up a jar of marinara sauce and tossing it with spaghetti, or else whipping up an ultraquick pasta aglio e olio (aka pasta with olive oil and garlic). Bright colors and flavors are usually reserved for pasta nights that require forethought and a long shopping list, right?

Not really.

Stretch your definition of pantry pastas to include one perishable ingredient and a whole world of recipes opens up. And if you get to know the other sauces, namely pesto, that sit on the aisle with marinara, along with the frozen vegetable aisle, you’ve got even more opportunity to riff.

Take this pantry-friendly pasta made with jarred pesto, ground lamb and frozen peas, for example. It looks and tastes like spring, but can be pulled off with aplomb even in the doldrums of February.

There are no real tricks here, save for cooking the lamb while the pasta boils and adding the peas directly to the pasta pot right before draining. Employing the lemon twice, one for its zest and once for its zippy juice, is also an easy way to build flavor without any effort or additional ingredients.

Do take the time, however, to look for a jarred pesto with a minimal ingredient list. Some brands include quite a few filler ingredients, and some even add water. Stick to the brands, such as Classico, that use only basil, olive oil, cheese, pine nuts and salt, or if you’re shopping in a grocery store with an expanded deli section, look for pesto that comes refrigerated. It won’t last as long in your pantry, but it’ll give your dish a big, fresh boost. And if you can manage a second perishable ingredient, a showering of freshly chopped mint or basil is a fine finishing touch.

Pasta Shells with Lamb and Peas

MORE 5:30 CHALLENGE:

Udon miso soup
Trout almondine

Harissa chicken thighs
 
Warm chickpea salad 
Steak fajitas
 
Scallops with Fennel and Grapefruit
 
Spaghetti and Meatballs

Read the 2018 AJC Fall Dining Guide: Dining on Buford Highway 

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