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Getting dinner on the table is a constant struggle for single dwellers and families alike. We serve a supper consisting of of boiled pasta and jarred tomato sauce a little more than we’d like to admit. However, we have a secret to tell you. With a little more effort (and not that much more time), it’s possible to cook up a complete pasta meal (as in veg, protein, and carb) in one pot. Though we’re showing you the method using a lemony shrimp linguine with spinach, we’ll provide guidelines so you can make you or your fam’s fave combinations.

Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Pasta

(Serves 6)

Recipe Notes: Halve the recipe if you’re cooking for one. That way, you can serve yourself a hefty portion and have plenty of leftovers.

Ingredients:

  • salt
  • 1 (1-pound) box pasta of your choice (linguine, rotini, spaghetti, etc)
  • 1/4 cup oil, plus more to garnish (extra virgin olive oil or ghee)
  • 1/4 cup allium vegetable, diced (garlic, onion, shallot, or leek)
  • zest of 1 citrus fruit, divided (lemon or orange)
  • 1-2 tablespoons acid (lemon juice or wine<)/li>
  • 1 pound protein (peeled and deveined shrimp, white or garbanzo beans, smoked salmon, canned tuna, chicken breast cut into bite-sized strips)
  • 1 1/2 cups veg (San Marzano canned tomatoes, broccoli florets, mushrooms, spinach, zucchini, or asparagus)
  • fresh delicate herbs, chopped, to garnish (parsley, basil, chives)
  • hard cheese, grated, to garnish (optional) (Parmesan or pecorino)

Directions:

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt it liberally, as in 1 tablespoon of salt per 4 cups of water.

2. Once it has reached a rapid boil, add pasta all at once. Cook it 1 minute less than package instructions, or roughly 7 minutes.

3. Reserve 1/2-1 cup of pasta water, then quickly drain pasta.

4. Heat a large skillet pan (we’re using a 6-quart pan but you can use the same pot that you cooked the pasta), then pour in 1/4 cup oil. Here, we are using olive oil.

5. Add allium. Cook until translucent. We used ~3 cloves of garlic.

6. Add half of the zest, if using. Above, we sprinkled in Meyer lemon zest for its floral scent and flavor.

7. Before lemon zest caramelizes, add acid. We used the juice of half of a lemon.

8. Add the protein of your choice, sprinkle on a three-finger pinch of salt, and sauté until caramelized and cooked through. Most items will take 5 minutes or less, although chicken may require ~4 minutes per side. We sautéed the shrimp in a single layer on the pan for ~2 minutes on each side.

9. Add your choice of veg to the pan with another pinch of salt. We added freshly chopped spinach.

10. Stir in pasta and add cooking water, 1 small splash at a time, until noodles cook through.

11. Taste and salt as needed. Drizzle on a little more olive oil to keep the noodles slippery so they don’t stick together. Sprinkle remaining zest on top. Grate cheese on top (optional).

12. Use tongs to divide onto plates. Garnish with chopped chives, parsley, and/or basil.

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(Recipe via Anna Monette Roberts/Brit + Co; styling by Kayla Haykin; photos via Brittany Griffin/Brit + Co)