Our family chooses to eat meat from animals that were responsibly and preferably locally raised, which means that we choose to pay more for our groceries. Sometimes it's hard for me to go into our regular grocery store and see normal boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale for $0.99/lb and have to walk by. Even if you don't share the same philosophy that we do when it comes to buying meat, maybe environmental factors will pull at your heart strings.
For a family of 4, skipping meat and cheese for one day a week is equivalent to taking your car off of the road for 5 weeks. If everyone in the US skipped meat and cheese for a day, it would be like taking 7.6 million cars off of the road for a year. (Source: Environmental Working Group)
Admittedly, it's hard for me to make a meal that doesn't have meat or cheese, but this one comes super close. This pasta is surprisingly full of flavor, very easy to make, uses ingredients that I already keep on hand, and comes together in less than 30 minutes.
The ingredients are strong on their own, so be sure to serve it with plenty of noodles to balance them out.
Arguably this shouldn't count as "Meatless Monday" since it has anchovies. For those of you squeamish about anchovies, keep in mind that you won't taste anchovy, per se; it will just give it a richer flavor than going without. You could always leave it out given the potency of the other ingredients.
super slightly adapted from America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook
2 tbs regular olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp anchovy paste (or 6 anchovies rinsed and minced)
1 tbs tomato paste (optional)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or part of a minced fresh hot pepper, like a jalapeño)
1 small red bell pepper, minced (optional)
1 (28 oz) can fire-roasted Muir Glen diced tomatoes (or use what you have)
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
3 tbs minced fresh parsley
2 tbs capers, rinsed
salt & pepper
12 oz whole-wheat pasta (spaghetti, tubes, bowties... whatever)
Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and dry pasta; cook until al dente. Reserve some cooking water in a separate dish and drain the pasta. Tip: Place a measuring cup in the sink and pour the pasta in a strainer over the measuring cup.
While waiting for the water to boil, in a 10-12 inch skillet over medium heat, cook the oil, garlic, anchovy paste, tomato paste (if using), bell pepper (if using) and red pepper flakes for 1-2 minutes. Do not let the garlic brown.
Stir in the undrained tomatoes, and bring it all to a simmer. Cook 15-20 minutes until the sauce has thickened, stirring every couple of minutes.
Remove from heat; stir in the olives, parsley, and capers. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the drained pasta to skillet. Toss to combine, adding some of the reserved pasta water to loosen it, if needed. I usually add a tablespoon or so to the container with the leftovers since the pasta tends to dry out some over time.
Optional: top with freshly shaved parmesan and your best extra virgin olive oil.
The sauce can be made 4 days ahead and frozen up to 2 months. Add cooked pasta to the warmed sauce when ready to serve.