Try it with tuna or leftover or rotisserie chicken!

Karla Walsh
December 14, 2020
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Getty / Gilbert Carrasquillo / Contributor
| Credit: Getty / Gilbert Carrasquillo / Contributor

We're willing to bet you've felt a lot like a short order cook at least once or twice over the course of the last 9 months as we're eating more at home. If you've whipped up more than one meal for, well, one meal, then we have great news for you: Rachael Ray is coming to the rescue with a pantry dinner winner that can be customized to feature your favorite proteins. Her Easy Florentine Pasta starts with all freezer or pantry staples (including frozen spinach, canned tomatoes and long-cut pasta) and ends with your choice of meat, seafood or a plant-based substitute.

While demonstrating the recipe on a recent episode of the Rachael Ray Show, the host said she dreamed up this 20-minute meal because her sister (who she shares meals with via a safe contact-free drop-off situation during the pandemic) isn't a huge fan of tuna. For Maria, she stirs in shredded chicken, and for the rest of the family, she uses another pantry staple: Oil-packed tuna.

To start the pasta party, Ray boils a pot of water "salted like the sea" to cook a long, thin style of pasta—pick your favorite or what you have on-hand, such as spaghetti, chitarra or bucatini.

As the noodles cook, she pours some of her go-to EVOO ($11.64 for 25.5 ounces on Amazon) into a large skillet. Then instead of caramelizing the onions and browning the garlic as she might to start other sauces, Ray suggests keeping the heat at medium or medium low. The sizzle should be quiet, similar to a polite golf clap, Rays says, then salt and sweat the aromatic ingredients to kick things off.

As that cooks, Ray says it's time to get a small skillet with some EVOO and chicken stock going over medium heat to warm the rotisserie or leftover chicken, if you're serving it, then finish with a splash of white wine. For the tuna, set up a separate small skillet over medium heat with EVOO, tuna and white vermouth instead of white wine. (If you're just making one or the other, feel free to toss the protein and alcohol right in with the onions and garlic, and feel free to use a plant-based swap for either if you like.)

Back to the onion action, she dumps in the frozen spinach that she's thawed, squeezed dry with a towel and chopped. Then she grates in fresh nutmeg, squeezes in some fresh lemon juice and adds a pinch each of salt and crushed red pepper flakes. Next come the canned tomatoes (Ray loves Italian cherry tomatoes, like these Mutti Cherry Tomatoes; $43.63 for 12, 14-ounce cans at Walmart), which you can pour right in and break with the back of a wooden spoon, Ray suggests.

She then saves a cup of the pasta cooking water, drains the pasta, then separates the noodles into two skillets. One warmed protein pick goes into each pan, then she sprinkles in some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano cheese, adds one more splash of EVOO and stirs in starchy cooking water as needed to bring the sauce to the family's desired consistency. Add half of the tomato mix to each skillet and you're ready to serve—alongside her husband John's Italian 75 Cocktail, she suggests, to complete the five-star feast.

We can't wait to try this super convenient Easy Florentine Pasta recipe with chicken and tuna, then experiment with other pantry or leftover proteins like white beans, ground turkey or even flaked salmon filets. An endlessly customizable, quicker-than-30-minute meal? We're in!