‘Twas the night of carpool madness: The little one stayed after school to watch his middle school’s first basketball game, then rushed home to get ready for his own basketball practice, which coincided with the start of his brother’s instrumental music concert across town. The husband was set for sports duty; I was deemed designated music booster. With just an hour before the mad rush began, all eyes set on me.

“What’s for dinner?”

Well … frankly … nothing. My madness had begun much earlier: A morning client; an afternoon party planning call; errands; laundry; pickup from that middle school basketball game. I’d forgotten to defrost anything for dinner and now, feeding these people was the last thing on my mind.

But they were undeterred. “We’re hungry!”

I did a quick scan of the pantry:

  • Pasta.
  • Vermouth.
  • Chile peppers.

A fast forage in the fridge:

  • Fennel.
  • Broccoli.
  • Lemons.

A quick scan of Suzanne Goin‘s “Sunday Suppers At Lucques,” which never fails to inspire me and offer some sort of new technique to amp up my dinners.

Thirty minutes later, we sat down to “fast & green pasta” — a toss of anchovy- and chile-spiked spaghetti crowned with sauteed vegetables, Parmesan cheese and crunchy, toasted bread crumbs.

The little one (and husband) got to basketball practice. The big one (and I) got to the concert.

And no one went hungry.

Fast & Green Pasta

I love Goin’s go-to flavor booster: A sprig of rosemary and a chile de Arbol sizzled in hot olive oil. I added an anchovy fillet to the mix, which boosted the dish’s savory quotient without imparting any fishiness. This recipe is loosely based on the clams & bucatini entree found in Goin’s “Sunday Suppers.”

  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3/4 pound spaghetti
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 chile de Arbol
  • 1 anchovy fillet
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup vermouth or other dry white wine
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • Parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place the breadcrumbs in a glass baking dish and drizzle them with 1 teaspoon of olive oil, adding more if they seem dry. Season with salt and pepper. Toast in the oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove the crumbs from the oven and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt it well, then place the broccoli rabe in the water and boil it for 8 minutes. When done, remove the rabe from the water, dry it well, then coarsely chop it.

Bring the water back to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to its package directions.

While the spaghetti is cooking, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the rosemary, the chile de Arbol and the anchovy fillet, breaking the fillet up with a wooden spoon until it has dissolved in the oil.

Remove the rosemary and chile and discard them.

Add the onion and fennel to the oil and saute until they’re tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and saute an additional minute.

Pour the wine and lemon juice into the saute pan. Cook until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the butter and the broccoli rabe.

Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the spaghetti. Toss it into the saute pan, stirring to combine everything. If the sauce seems dry, stir in some of the reserved pasta water until you get the consistency you want. Sprinkle everything with Parmesan cheese to taste.

Spoon the pasta on plates and shower the bread crumbs over it.

Voila, you hungry people! Dinner is done!

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