One tin of anchovies. One whole head of garlic. One pound of pasta. One box of baby arugula. One head of radicchio... and some olive oil, lemon juice, basil, and butter. That's all you need to make my favorite quick pasta dinner. I make versions of this 20-minute dinner for myself almost once a week, especially in the winter when I want something that feels simultaneously warm and comforting and full of fresh green things. I call it Salad Pasta because there's basically a whole salad tossed in¡ªit's not the sort of side-dish pasta salad you'd serve at room temp at a picnic or a backyard cookout.
Here's how I make it.
First up: I get a pot of salted water on the stove, cover it, and bring it to a boil. As soon as it's boiling, I start cooking the pasta according to the cooking directions on the box. I like to use Banza for this dinner, because it's gluten-free, which I need, plus higher in protein which makes the meal more filling. The chickpea flavor of Banza works especially well with the assertive flavors of this pasta dinner. (Even one of my Test Kitchen teammates who thinks he hates Banza loved it when I served it to him this way.)
While the pasta water is coming to a boil and that pasta is cooking, I start my quick pasta sauce by stirring together anchovies, sliced garlic, and some crushed red pepper flakes in a cold skillet with half a cup of olive oil. If you're wondering how I got the garlic so pretty in that photo above, the secret is the slice each clove on a mandoline and to slice it lengthwise rather than crosswise. And remember: there is no shame in wearing cut-resistant gloves while using a mandoline¡ªI do it all the time.
As the mixture cooks, I stir my sauce often to encourage the anchovy fillets to dissolve a bit. And because I love to multi-task, I juice my lemon and prep my radicchio leaves and basil, too.
When it's time to drain the pasta, be sure to save your pasta cooking water¡ªit's the magic ingredient that turns pasta sauce creamy and silky. As soon as the garlic is lightly browned and the anchovies are melted, I turn off the stove, add the cooked pasta, some pasta cooking water, lemon juice, and cold butter to help emulsify the sauce, and I stir until the sauce is thick and glossy.
I want the hearty radicchio to wilt and warm a bit, but I don't want that to happen to the tender baby arugula and basil. So I dump it all (right away!) over my prepped radicchio in a large bowl, and toss to coat. Then I put the arugula and basil on top and lift from the bottom to serve each serving. That way, the arugula and basil are sauced without wilting too much.
You can use any kind of pasta you love for this dinner, and swap in other salad greens too. Try hearty greens like escarole or kale or fris¨¦e instead of the radicchio, and a fresh, bright, tender thing like watercress instead of the baby arugula. Sometimes I make this dish with just baby arugula, but I have found that the mix of two textures of salad greens really ticks it up a notch into proper grownup dinner territory. And yes, I'd like some freshly ground black pepper on top, thank you.