About 10 years ago, the fad in the culinary world was recipes with only three ingredients. In addition to cookbooks with three-ingredient recipes, recipe writers and chefs stretched their imaginations to create a bare-bones kind of cooking. The fact that some of these streamlined recipes took hours to cook didn’t seem to matter.
Eventually, professional recipe writers realized that what home cooks wanted most was not short ingredient lists, but short cooking times. “Three” lost its spot as the magic number, and “convenience” took its place. “How long does it take to make?” is still the question most of us ask when we see a recipe for the first time. For some of the world’s best food that cooks in a matter of minutes, the place to look is in Italian cookbooks.
The Classic Italian Cook Book (Knopf) by Marcella Hazan, for instance, has been around since 1973 and is still a favorite. Hazan, an expert in Italian cooking, warns readers not to overcook pasta. For al dente, or firm to the bite, it takes just minutes from the time the noodles hit the water until they’re done. Hazan’s instructions for fettuccine Alfredo are filled with words like, “seconds,” “briefly” and “immediately,” and her basil and tomato sauce is ready in 15 minutes flat. These are not dishes for cooks who linger. Flattened pieces of veal or chicken, called “scaloppini,” are sautéed in seconds. Simple pan sauces with marsala or lemon add only a few minutes to the prep. As you might expect, a piece of fish is in and out of the oven in five minutes.
To the list of Italian dishes for cooks in a hurry, we add ravioli and vegetables, a colorful combination of fresh vegetables and ravioli that goes from skillet to table in record-breaking time.
Skillet Ravioli and Vegetables
No need to pre-boil refrigerated ravioli—simply saute and steam briefly in a skillet. If desired, replace half of the chicken broth with dry white wine.
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cups cauliflower florets
1 1/2 cups chopped bell peppers (red, green and yellow)
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 (9-ounce) packages refrigerated vegetable or cheese ravioli
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan-Asiago-Romano cheese blend
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add cauliflower, peppers, mushrooms and garlic. Stir. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove vegetables and set aside. Add 1/4 cup chicken broth to the pan. Scrape pan to loosen browned bits; pour over vegetables.
2. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet and heat over high heat. Add ravioli and Italian seasoning. Cook, stirring, until the ravioli browns, about 2 minutes. Add remaining chicken broth. Cover, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until ravioli is tender and plump, about 3 minutes. Add cheese, salt, pepper, pepper flakes and reserved vegetables. Cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Serves 6.
Recipe by Sharon Sanders
Per serving: 290 calories, 16g fat, 10g prot., 21g carbs., 3g fiber, 520mg sodium.
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Photo credit: Mark Boughton Photography; styling by Teresa Blackburn