Reimagine frozen veggies with this easy, filling spicy vegetarian pasta

Enjoy a healthy pasta night with this foolproof, delicious dinner

sadie-goodman-spicyveggiepasta

 This pasta recipe is delicious home-cooked pasta at its best.  

Sadie Goodman | Cavalier Daily

Pasta is — besides cereal and eggs — one of the most accessible meals for a novice chef. There is little to no skill involved in the process, and it is nearly impossible to make all of those delicious carbs taste bad. However, there is a huge difference between average college-student pasta — just butter and noodles — and truly delicious pasta. This recipe is just as easy to make as average pasta, but the flavors epitomize home-cooked vegetarian pasta at its best. Furthermore, the ingredients are affordable and last for ages because fresh produce is not required. 

Cook time: 15-20 minutes

Ingredients:

1 tbsp vegetable oil 

1-2 cloves of garlic

½ cup frozen mushrooms

½ cup frozen spinach

1 cup red pasta sauce

1-2 servings of pasta

½ tbsp butter

Lemon juice, to taste

Basil, to taste

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Red pepper flakes, to taste

About a handful of parmesan cheese

1. To start the pasta, fill a large pot with salted water. Pro tip — if you have an electric kettle, only fill your pot halfway with water. Fill your kettle and set it to boil as a way to speed up the pasta-making process.  

2. Heat vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. 

3. Mince the garlic cloves and add to the hot oil until lightly browned and fragrant. 

4. Add frozen mushrooms to your hot pan and cook for around three to five minutes or until the mushrooms are hot and thawed. 

5. Add frozen spinach to the mushrooms and cook until thawed. 

6. Grind in salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste. You can also add a squeeze of lemon juice at this point to introduce some acidity and brightness to your vegetables. 

7. Your water should be boiling by now, so add your pasta. I love using a pasta with lots of grooves — like radiatore or rotini — so the thick sauce can fully hold onto the pasta.   

8. Now your veggies are ready for sauce. Add your red sauce and chopped basil to the hot pan with your thawed spinach and mushrooms. I like adding about half a jar — or around one cup of red sauce — to make sure all of my pasta is fully coated. 

9. Add the butter and parmesan cheese to the red sauce and veggie mixture. Make sure to stir the sauce mixture until the parmesan and butter are fully melted and incorporated. I like to shake in a few more red pepper flakes at this point as well to amp up the spice. 

10. At this point, turn the heat down from medium-high to low heat and allow the red sauce to simmer. As it simmers, it should begin to thicken up. I like to add a few spoonfuls of the starchy pasta water to keep the sauce loose and velvety. 

11. When your pasta reaches al dente, strain it and immediately add to the sauce and veggie pan. Stir this mix together until you are ready to plate up and serve. 

12. Feel free to grind some fresh pepper, another bit of salt and a bit more red pepper on top for garnish. Enjoy this recipe, and make it for yourself, family and friends! 

This pasta is hearty and filling, and the veggies make sure you get the vitamins you need to stay healthy — and the veggies make up for any carb guilt. The best part of this recipe is that you can play around with which veggies you choose to add! I’ve made variations without red pepper or substituting other frozen vegetable options like artichoke hearts, eggplant and zucchini instead of mushrooms and spinach. I find mushrooms and spinach work well because they thaw quickly on the stove and don’t hold onto the usual processed and bland frozen-food flavor once cooked into the sauce. Mushrooms also add a savory umami flavor and give the sauce an almost meaty texture.

This recipe doesn’t take long to cook which makes it a great dinner option after a long day of class. I recently made this for a dinner party with friends, and it was a huge hit. Invite your friends over for a potluck or a pasta party bonding session. Ask your friends to bring their favorite frozen vegetables from their apartment fridges and cook them up with your favorite pasta variety, red sauce and optional spice for a quick, cost-effective vegetarian dinner. 

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