If you’re anything like me, you’ve steadily grown poorer over college, struggling to save money yet eat healthy, until you’ve decided that maybe Top Ramen three times a day really is the way to go – and kidney stones in your thirties can’t be all that bad. The light at the end of the tunnel, however, is that there actually is food out there that tastes great, is relatively affordable, and won’t lead to heart failure before you turn twenty-five.
To help switch up the monotony of one’s collegiate culinary routine besides just picking beef over chicken flavored cup o’ noodles, a few investments should be made. Buy a few spices and flavorings such as garlic powder, minced onions, thyme, and sage, that you can use in a wide variety of dishes. They’ll last you quite a while and you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.
Today we have bacon ranch pasta with spinach and tomatoes. It’s sometimes hard to motivate oneself to eat veggies, so if you do the vegetables-hidden-in-food approach, much like one would feed a pill to a cat by wrapping it in meat, you’re outsmarting yourself and getting your recommended vitamins/nutrition for the day. I’d suggest doubling the recipe because this dish yields fantastic leftovers. It’s quite easy to throw together, and pretty cost-effective. Check the vocabulary list at the end of the article to resolve any questions on cooking terminology.
1/2 lb bacon (about ½ package of bacon. To boost flavor, add a couple more strips)
1 lb short cut pasta, such as penne or rigatoni
1 teaspoon dried parsley
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon seasoned salt (regular salt works fine, but I used Red Robin seasoning)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups heavy cream
1 bag baby spinach
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained (you’ll want the juice to add flavor to the sauce)
Grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, cook bacon. Allow the bacon to cool, then crumble. Drain pasta when it reaches al dentephase.
In a small bowl, combine parsley, pepper, salt, garlic powder, onion powder and thyme.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in skillet large enough to hold the pasta over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
Add heavy cream and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and add seasoning mixture from step 2, plus spinach and tomatoes. Keep stirring to help reduce the sauce. Cook until the spinach wilts.
Add pasta and cooked bacon and toss to combine. Add grated cheese and taste for seasoning.
- Minced: Cut or chopped into very fine pieces.
- Al dente: fancy Italian way of describing pasta that is firm but cooked through. Literally meaning “to the tooth,” al dente is when the pasta sticks to your teeth when you bite into it. One fun way to test if your pasta is al dente? Throw it at the ceiling. If it sticks for a bit before falling, it’s ready!
- Pecorino: An aged sheep’s milk cheese, similar to parmesan in texture with a nutty, buttery taste.
- Wilted: Once the spinach looks like the stuff Popeye eats from a can. Limp, juicy, and greatly reduced in size.
- Reduced: thickening a sauce or liquid by simmering or boiling. Also intensifies flavor and allows sauce to “sit on top” of a dish instead of draining to the bottom.
*Also, no official link has been found between kidney stones and Top Ramen or Cup Noodles, so please don’t sue me for libel.
By Kelsey Harrell