Sometimes a hearty meal has to be made quickly. I’m OK on occasion with a bowl of pasta tossed with butter, cheese and black pepper, but I’ll admit, I’m not always eager to have something that plain and simple on a regular basis.
I keep on hand, frozen, several “grab-quick” staples that can be turned into an elevated meal from simple ingredients where pasta plays king. I will pressure cook chickpeas, in salted water that has a pinch of baking soda added, cool, and freeze for later use. When freezing beans, I like to make certain I spread them in a single layer on a sheet pan, then freeze them, and then transfer them when individually frozen to freezer bags. In freezing beans this way, they remain separated and I can easily portion them as needed. The same freezing method works for wheat berries, and toasted barley. I also keep a batch of pesto frozen that can easily be added to cream, or Greek-style yogurt (and shredded cucumber!), or chicken broth, or tossed with hot pasta.
If you don’t have pesto, beans and wheat berries pre-made and frozen, just substitute supermarket staples like jarred pesto, and canned beans that have been drained and rinsed for use in this recipe. Look carefully in some supermarkets – I’ve noticed several are now carrying pouches of lentils, and cooked grains in the freezer section that could easily be used here.
I microwave the pesto, beans and grains for a minute just to remove their chill, and I rely on the hot pasta and pasta cooking water to keep this piping hot, creating a sauce that brings this whole dish together very quickly. This meal can be completely created in the time it takes to boil pasta.
½ pound (227g) pasta – I used gemelli
2 Tablespoons pre-made pesto
¼ cup premade chickpeas
¼ cup premade wheat berries
2 cups lightly packed fresh arugula
¼ cup pasta cooking liquid
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Cook pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile, place the pesto, chickpeas and wheat berries in a micro-wave-proof serving bowl and microwave on high heat until heated through, and the pesto is melted, about 1 minute. Top this mixture with the arugula. Set aside.
Using a slotted spoon or a small strainer, transfer the cooked, hot pasta directly on top of the arugula mixture and toss together with the pasta cooking liquid, salt and pepper until evenly coated. Serve immediately, garnished with shredded cheese if desired.