Kitchn Love Letters

The 60-Second Dinner Shortcut This Registered Dietitian Loves When She Doesn’t Even Feel Like Boiling Water

published Nov 28, 2021
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Credit: Photo: Paola + Murray; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

Pasta is one of the easiest foods to cook. If you can boil water, you can make pasta, right? Of course that’s true. But there are some days when the waiting — for the water to boil, for the pasta to cook, for the meal to come together — is just, well, too much. Especially when you have a hungry family staring back at you. 

Sure, there are takeout and drive-thru dinner options that I can lean on to get food on the table and into hungry mouths with minimal effort. But most of the options that are available to me are fried or heavy on the salt. As a registered dietitian, I know how important nutritious food is — no matter how busy we get.

Enriched semolina pasta is a staple in my home because it is easy to prepare and is a source of important nutrients like protein, iron, and vitamin B. And because it is free from added sugars, added fat, and sodium, and an easy-to-prep food, it finds its way on our dinner table quite often. I tend to pair it with some veggies and top it with sliced chicken or shrimp for a quick, balanced dinner. 

Credit: Lauren Manaker

On busy weeknights when I don’t even have time to watch a water-filled pot (it really doesn’t boil if you’re looking!), I use Barilla Ready Pasta to accelerate dinner. This pasta is fully cooked, preservative-free, and contains just four ingredients (water, semolina pasta, a pinch of sea salt, and a dash of extra-virgin olive oil). I simply pop a bag in the microwave and, after 60 seconds, I have hot, fully cooked, and totally delicious “al-dente” pasta ready to be sauced and served.

Credit: Lauren Manaker

Whether I’m adding pre-cooked chicken and broccoli or tomatoes with mozz and a drizzle of olive oil, I simply top this cooked pasta as if it were pasta that I boiled myself. (It honestly doesn’t taste any different and no one would ever be able to tell that it came nearly ready to go, from a pouch instead of a box.) My family is happy and full, while I am pleased we’re eating something nutritious. It’s one of my best-laid meal plans!

Buy: Barilla Fully Cooked Penne Ready Pasta, $1.68 for 8.5 ounces at Walmart

What’s your favorite weeknight dinner shortcut? Tell us in the comments below!