When it comes to weeknight dinners, sometimes the shortest route is the long way around.
Which is to say, letting the slow cooker chug away while you are away often is the fastest and easiest way to get a great dinner on the table during your evening rush.
My only complaint about slow cooker recipes is that too many of them require either too much planning or too much prepping (and sometimes cooking) of ingredients before they go into the cooker. I want recipes that let me dump stuff in, then walk away and forget about it until dinner.
So that's what I came up with for this simple, but over-the-top-good pasta recipe. You let the slow cooker perfectly caramelize a whole mess of onions while you are at work for the day. When you come home, you toss those with a few other ingredients and in the time it takes you to boil pasta, you have dinner.
A food processor is the easiest way to slice this volume of onions. And you also could do that the night before, then bag them and toss them in the refrigerator until the next morning so all you have to do is empty them into the slow cooker and walk away.
As for the sun-dried tomatoes and arugula... I went with what I like. But improvise according to your family's tastes. Any vegetables or cooked meats can be substituted. Sausage even could be added to the slow cooker in the morning.
CREAMY CARAMELIZED ONION PASTA
Start to finish: 6 to 8 hours
3 pounds yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound fettuccine pasta
8-ounce container creme fraiche
5-ounce container arugula
1 cup thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes
Salt and ground black pepper
In a large slow cooker, combine the onions and olive oil. Stir well to coat, then cover and cook on high for 6 to 8 hours, or until well browned and caramelized.
When the onions are done, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain, then return to the pot. Add the onions, creme fraiche, arugula and sun-dried tomatoes. Stir over medium heat until the arugula just begins to wilt, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 450 calories; 160 calories from fat (35 percent of total calories); 18 g fat (8 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 25 mg cholesterol; 62 g carbohydrate; 11 g protein; 5 g fiber; 170 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Food Editor J.M. Hirsch is author of the cookbook "High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking." Follow him to great eats on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch or email him at jhirsch(at)ap.org.