‘Pasta Nada’ and More Ultrafast, Flexible Dinners

I’ve recently returned from spring break, where I scrounged a few quiet minutes to lie down poolside and devour “The Upstairs Delicatessen,” by Dwight Garner, a book critic here at The New York Times and a known eater of exceptional taste. The subtitle of this memoir: “On Eating, Reading, Reading About Eating, and Eating While Reading.”

In the book, Dwight refers to “pasta nada,” which is what his father-in-law, an accomplished chef, called pasta dishes that were made on the fly from whatever was in the house. Pasta nada! A perfect phrase, and one of my preferred ways to feed myself. I emailed Dwight to ask him to elaborate on what pasta nada looks like in his kitchen. “The only requirement is that it be simple,” he replied:

We’ve got many nada-ish pastas on NYT Cooking (pasta with tuna, capers and scallions; with olives and walnuts; with bacon, greens and a fried egg), though it seems that a true nada would regard these recipes as broad-strokes maps and then off-road at the first turn. I’ve included one such pasta below, along with four other recipes I feel are in the nada spirit: flexible and made with few ingredients, the kinds you might keep stocked in the fridge, pantry or freezer. Tell me what you think at [email protected]. It’s always good to hear from you.

I’m also making:

Citrus shortbread (but rolled out and cut with cookie cutters); herby feta and yogurt dip with sumac; boiled potatoes with butter and mint; and this superb braised lamb with squash and brandied fruit (without the squash, because I’m done with butternut squash until October, but with the brandied dried fruit, because I had some lingering in the fridge begging to be used up).

Credit…Johnny Miller for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Rebecca Jurkevich.

1. Creamy Garlic Pasta With Greens

It never would’ve occurred to me to toss warm spaghetti with a shortcut garlic aioli — that is, mayonnaise with olive oil, lemon and garlic stirred in. But it did occur to Christian Reynoso, a great recipe developer whose new pasta dish is both utterly simple and inspired.

View this recipe.

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