3 Easy Pasta Dishes When You Have No Idea What to Make For Dinner

We all have those nights where we haven’t made a plan for dinner, haven’t gone grocery shopping, and don’t really FEEL like cooking…before reaching for the phone to order a pizza, I’m saving you with 3 easy pasta dishes that use ingredients you should already have in your pantry. Dinner? DONE!

Recipe 1: Pasta in Tomato and Onion Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 Onion, cut in half

  • 5 Tbsp Butter

  • 1 28-oz can of imported tomatoes (or 2 smaller cans is fine) (crushed or petite diced is best)

  • 1 lb Pasta such as Spaghetti or Penne

  • Salt and Pepper to taste

  • Optional: Grated Parmesan Cheese and Crusty Bread

Directions

  1. Add the crushed tomatoes, butter and onion to a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat to low and simmer VERY slowly for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season as you see fit with salt and pepper to taste.

  2. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain.

  3. When the sauce is done, add the pasta to the saucepan and stir. Serve with optional grated parmesan on top and crusty bread on the side.

Wine Pairing: Sangiovese, Chianti, or Barbera


Recipe 2: Pasta in Cream and Butter Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Pasta such as Linguine or Fettuccine

  • 1 Cup Heavy Cream, divided

  • 2/3 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese, divided plus more for serving

  • 2 Tbsp Butter (make it good quality for best result)

  • Salt and Pepper to taste

  • Optional: freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Directions

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain.

  2. Add 2/3 Cup of the heavy cream and all of the butter into a large saucepan and turn the stove to medium heat. Cook and stir together until the butter has just melted and the cream has thickened up. Turn off the heat.

  3. Add the drained pasta to the butter and cream and turn the heat to low. Toss the pasta until thoroughly coated. Add the remaining 1/3 Cup heavy cream, the 2/3 Cup Parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste. If you have nutmeg, grate just a pinch over the pasta.

  4. Serve with grated Parmesan on top.

Wine Pairing: Oaked Chardonnay


Recipe 3: Lemon-Garlic Spaghetti

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Pasta, such as Spaghetti or Angel Hair

  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil, more to taste

  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced

  • Juice of 1 Lemon

  • 1/2 Cup reserved cooking liquid from the cooked pasta (feel free to substitute chicken stock or white wine)

  • a Handful of Spinach

  • Grated Parmesan Cheese for serving

  • Optional: Lemon Wedges for serving

Directions

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain.

  2. Add the olive oil to a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute.

  3. Add the cooked pasta, the lemon juice, the reserved cooking liquid, and spinach. Stir until the spinach wilts

  4. Serve immediately with grated Parmesan cheese on top and lemon wedges for extra acidity (optional)

Wine Pairing: Unoaked Chardonnay (like Chablis), Pinot Grigio, Sparkling Wine

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Swordfish Wine Pairing: Make it Broiled with Lemon-Butter Sauce

Ever wonder what wine to pair with swordfish? There are many to choose from, actually; it depends on how you want to cook this dish. In this pairing, I broiled swordfish steaks and served them with a delicious lemon-butter wine sauce...perfect with a crisp, acidic white wine.

Its no secret that I really, really, really like lemony dishes. (Here are two of my favorites: lemon chicken and easy peasy lemon spaghetti.) God help me if I run out of lemons in the house. They add so much character to the simplest of meals.  Squeeze a lemon over anything and its instantly brighter. So guess what I did to this swordfish? Gave it some zip with a lemon-butter sauce.

The Pairing

The number one thing to consider when pairing lemony dishes with wine is: are there lemon flavors in the wine? If the answer to that question is "yes", you'll most likely have a great wine pairing. Of course this means that white wines totally reign over reds for this one. The ideal wine I want with this dish is a medium-bodied, refreshing white wine with high acidity and plenty of lemon and citrus flavors. I chose Principessa Gavi from Banfi to eat with this dish and it was perfect! Gavi is a DOCG in Piedmont (northwestern Italy) for white wines made from the cortese grape. Naturally, its got a dry, crisp, refreshing character with high acidity and plenty of those lemon flavors that  I was looking for (and olive, which also went great with this dish).

However, if you don't find a Gavi, that's okay. This pairing is where you can have some fun, friends. Find a cool, weird varietal that you may have never heard of before. As long as its bright and acidic, it'll work.

Dani's Picks for Wines to Pair with Broiled Swordfish

  • Gavi
  • Verdicchio
  • Picpoul (a lemony varietal from southern France)
  • Pinot Grigio (make it from Italy)
  • Sauvignon Blanc (but stay away from New Zealand or America which may overwhelm this dish)
  • Chablis: always yummy

As you can see, I have a lot of suggestions and am barely scratching the surface. Have fun with this pairing, its an easy one! Just make sure not to buy a wine that is too weighty or aromatic. Stay away from: oaked Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Torrontes, and Viognier.

The Recipe

We call swordfish steaks "steaks" because its a pretty meaty fish. It can be made many different ways, but it was a great way to celebrate the weather getting warmer by broiling this one and lightening it up with a lemon butter sauce with dill. Leave the skin on the swordfish as it helps keep the fish moist (ew, I hate that word). Recipes adapted from finecooking.com and ehow.com.

Broiled Swordfish Steaks with Lemon-Butter Sauce

Author: Dani (CaretoPair.com)

Prep time: 5 mins

Cook time: 20 mins

Total time: 25 mins

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup dry white wine (use whatever you're pairing your dinner with)
  • 1/4 Cup minced yellow onion
  • 4 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Swordfish steaks, about 1 lb total
  • small amount of butter (about 1/2 Tbsp)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced very finely

Instructions

  1. First, make the sauce. In a small saucepan, add the onion and wine and simmer over medium-high heat until the wine has reduced to 1/3 of its size, stirring occasionally. (About 10 minutes)
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and add a few cubes of butter, whisking them into the wine until fully melted. Repeat with the rest of the butter cubes.
  3. Stir in the dill, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper if desired (I didn't).
  4. Next, heat the broiler to high and let warm up for about 5 minutes. Brush the swordfish steaks with a thin layer of room-temperature butter and season with salt, pepper, and minced garlic on both sides. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil (to encourage browning) and place under the broiler about 5 inches away from the heating element.
  5. Cook for about 5 minutes until the swordfish begins to brown. Remove from the broiler and flip the fish with a spatula. Place back under the broiler and continue to brown for an additional 5 minutes .Meanwhile, reheat the lemon-butter sauce if necessary.
  6. Serve the swordfish over rice and pour the lemon-butter sauce all over it. Sqeeze a lemon over everything for an extra boost of acidity.

Thirsty for More?

What Wine to Pair with Fried Chicken

Did you just pick up a bucket of chicken or heating up the deep fryer to make it at home? Instantly make fried chicken fancy by pairing it with some bubbly!

A few months ago my sister told me she was making her boyfriend his favorite home-cooked meal, fried chicken, and asked me what wine to pair with it. My first thought: what?! Who drinks wine with fried chicken? Then I thought: why not? On the rare occasion that I eat fried chicken, I'm pairing it with beer. But my sister was making it for a special occasion and wanted to serve it with wine, so okay! You want wine with your fried chicken? You got it! So thus, I bring you a post on pairing fried chicken and wine.

The Disaster

In an attempt to make all our meals at home these days without the dependence of pre-made food at the grocery store or fast-food restaurants, I decided to make fried chicken at home (which I had never done before). And when I say "I", I mean I completely pawned this one off on my husband. For those of you who make fried chicken at home...how do you do it?! For those of you looking to make this dish for the first time at home: proceed with caution.

This was by far the most intense, time-consuming, dish-dirtying, smoke-detector-going-off meal we've ever made. Between getting the oil to the right temperature and then keeping it at the right temperature, this took way longer than I had expected. I actually abandoned my husband after the first batch to go take pictures of the chicken and the poor guy was cursing every other word while getting splattered and burned with hot oil. Somehow he even managed to spill a bunch of oil down the front of the stove, to which the dog had a field day. It was one of those meals that you told yourself you'll never make again...until you try it. And then it all became clear. Best fried chicken I've ever had in my entire life. Now I know why the South makes such a big deal of it!

The Pairing

As you can clearly see in the pictures, I paired fried chicken with bubbly.

But what kind of bubbles, Dani??

So a big reason why beer goes well with anything fried is because the carbonation you get in beer will cut through fat. In case you didn't know, that fried goodness in fried chicken is alllll fat. So pairing a fried food with bubbly wine will do the same thing that beer does. Bonus: bubbly wine almost always has high acidity which will also cut through the fattiness in fried chicken.

The best sparkling wine to pair with fried chicken is one with a hint of sweetness. In the wine world, we would call this an "Extra Dry" style of sparkling wine. I know, confusing, right? Extra Dry denotes that there's a teeny tiny bit of sugar left in the bottle of bubbly, which will pair excellently with the juicy sweetness in the fried chicken.  You'll find bottles of Extra Dry almost anywhere sparkling wine is sold; in fact, you'll see it right on the label, so you'll know you're making the right purchase. All kinds of wine come in the Extra Dry style, including domestic sparkling wine, Cava, and Champagne. So whatever you decide to purchase will fit your budget no matter what that is.

**on that note: Cava is one of the best values of sparkling wine out there. You can find bottles as little as $8/btl. This is one of my favorite value wines if the occasion doesn't call for Champagne**

But I Don't Have Sparkling Wine at the House. What Else Goes with Fried Chicken?

I know we all don't just have cases of extra dry sparkling wine lying around the house. If you don't have access to any bubbles, fear not: Other pairings will work:

  • Chardonnay. One with some oak and butter will complement the sweetness of the chicken nicely.
  • Sauvignon Blanc. Most SB will have wonderfully high acidity that will cut nicely through the fatty fried bits.
  • Beer. Almost any kind, actually. My favorite beer style to pair with fried food is Extra Special Bitter (ESB). Check out this post to find out more.

At the end of the day, just drink what you like with fried chicken, whether that be sweet tea, soda, beer or wine. Although there are some rules when it comes to food pairings, rules are meant to be broken.

To make the same fried chicken recipe that I used (highly recommended, although intense and time-consuming), click here.

Spicy, Creamy Chipotle Shrimp Paired With Albarino

Chipotle Cream Shrimp Paired with Albarino. This easy meal gets cooked up in 10 minutes! Make it spicy...or not. Serve over Rice | CaretoPair.com

Looking for a shrimp dish that isn't pasta or tacos? Here's your answer. Chipotle Cream Shrimp is quick yet delectable, easy enough for a weeknight but fancy enough for date-night-in. Serve it with rice and a glass of Albarino to complete the meal.

Okay y'all, let's talk about how great shrimp is for two seconds. My family never ate shrimp when I was growing up. We never really ate anything from the ocean considering we lived in the Midwest and my mom is 100% Polish. Makes sense, right?

Well my poor mother is missing out! Shrimp is so easy to make! I just love (great) food that cooks fast. And we're not talking about putting something in the microwave, either. I love shrimp, but it is hard to find recipes out there that don't involve the shrimp being in tacos or pasta. So when I discovered this way of making shrimp, I rushed to the store (literally) to try it out.

Chipotle Cream Shrimp Paired With Albarino White Wine | CaretoPair.com

First time I made it--not spicy enough. So I made it again. Perfect. And the best news? Only took me 15 minutes. So whether its date-night-in or just an I'm-in-a-shrimp-kind-of-mood weeknight, this is a dish to add to your menu.

The Pairing

Pair this Chipotle Cream Shrimp with a glass of Albarino. If you don't have access to Albarino, a glass of Sauvignon Blanc will pair nicely as well. Albarino is an interesting grape that has gained popularity in the states in the past 5 or 6 years. It produces an aromatic wine with primary aromas of citrus (think orange, grapefruit, lemon) and stone fruit (like peaches and nectarines). It can also be reminiscent of sea spray, given that the vineyards that produce Albarino in the "green" northwestern coast of Spain are in close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. The bright, crisp, refreshing character will cut right through the spice and cream in this shrimp dish, making you think of a bright sunny day no matter what time of year it is.

Chipotle Cream Shrimp Paired with Albarino White Wine | CaretoPair.com

The Recipe

Serve this shrimp over white or brown rice, or on its own! My "side dish" of choice is chips and guacamole...highly appropriate. For the wine, use 1/4 Cup of the Albarino you'll be serving with it afterwards. Or if you have any other dry white wine that needs to be used up, anything will work.

Spicy and Creamy Chipotle Shrimp

Author: Dani

Prep time: 5 mins

Cook time: 10 mins

Total time: 15 mins

Serves: 2-3

Recipe adapted from The Food Network

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup flour
  • 4 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 8 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 1/4 Cup dry white wine (you can use the albarino you will be pairing this meal with. Pinot Grigio/Chardonnay would work too)
  • 1 Cup heavy cream
  • 4 Tbsp chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (keep the seeds for added heat)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp garlic (about 3 cloves, minced)

Instructions

  1. Mix the flour, 4 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, salt, and black pepper in a bowl. Add the shrimp and toss to coat.
  2. Melt 3 Tbsp of butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add half the shrimp (or all, depending on how big your pan is) and saute until browned, about 2 minutes. Flip each shrimp and saute for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  3. When the shrimp are just cooked through, remove them from the pan onto a plate. Melt an additional 3 Tbsp of butter in the pan and repeat the above process with the remaining uncooked shrimp. Set them aside when finished.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium and add 2 additional Tbsp of butter. Once melted, add the wine. Simmer until it has thickened, 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add the cream, chopped chipotle chiles, worchestershire sauce, and garlic. Stir to combine.
  6. Return the shrimp to the pan to heat through. Serve immediately over brown or white rice and garnished with chopped cilantro.

 

Spicy and Creamy Chipotle Shrimp Paired with Albarino | CaretoPair.com

Happy Pairing!