Do you ever just buy those boxes of Pasta Roni, and you talk yourself into thinking it’s fancy because it isn’t just ordinary Mac ‘n Cheese, but “Angel Hair Pasta with Olive Oil and Garden Herbs” and “Pasta Shells in a Three-Cheese Blend with Garlic and Rosemary?” Or some such talk. I’m too lazy to get up and look in my pantry to see what the labels really say. But everything always looks and sounds a little fancier on the package than when I’m done with it.

Nevertheless, I always have a couple of boxes on hand for those “scrap the menu, what’s in the pantry” kind of dinners. And that one box is not enough to feed even a family of four, so you have to make two, but then you feel guilty about all the processed flour and preservatives and synthetic cheeses you’re about to feed your offspring. So you feel like you have to make a nice spinach salad and grill some herbed, organically spawned Salmon that swam only in the wild rivers of Alaska, uphill both ways, during peak season, to make up for the fact that you just made pasta out of a box.

But here’s the deal, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH USING PASTA RONI! As a matter of fact, go for the gold. That pasta was invented for parents like us who just don’t feel like making long grained wild rice and grilled Salmon tonight. Sometimes just frozen vegetables and some chicken fingers is all you can come up with. And pat yourself on the back for not letting your kids starve.

But here’s a really quick, really fun meal that will feel a bit like fine dining, and it includes our lovely Pasta Roni along with that fabulous spinach salad, all rolled into one! And no chicken fingers or frozen veggies at all.

All you do is cook the pasta according to the package directions while you saute some meat, then simmer everything together in a large skillet for about 6 minutes. It will come out looking and tasting fancy, but really you just threw it together in a flash.

 

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Start in on the pasta…

 

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Cook up the shrimp or chicken. (I have to admit that I fully cheated on this already cheating recipe, and I just bought a thing of shrimp that already had a garlic cream sauce in it; hence the creamy look. But you only need butter and garlic and you’re good).

 

 

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Combine everything together and stir. You can either leave it like this–on the fresh side…

 

 

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Or you can simmer until the tomatoes are bursting open and the spinach is nice and soft. I like to leave the tomatoes whole because they burst with steam and flavor in your mouth when you bite into them, but you can also slice them in half to let the juices out a little bit during the simmer. It’s up to you.

 

Cheater Scampi Pasta
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
 
Ingredients
  • 1 pkg Pasta Roni of choice
  • 1 pkg cherry tomatoes, whole
  • ½ bag of baby spinach
  • ½ lb shrimp or chicken, cut into small bite size chunks
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • ½ tsp garlic salt
Instructions
  1. Prepare the pasta according to package directions.
  2. While this is simmering, sauté your chicken or shrimp in a skillet with butter and garlic for about 2 minutes to seer.
  3. Turn heat down to medium and cook for another 5 minutes, or until completely done.
  4. Pour in the pasta and sauce, cherry tomatoes, and spinach into the skillet and stir together until evenly combined.
  5. Cover and simmer for about 6 minutes, or until desired consistency.
Notes
Some people might like the spinach to be slightly crisp, while others like it limp and dark. Just watch the pan closely and cook it to your liking.

 

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