Food Topic: Lotsa Pasta
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I spent a lot of time researching pasta.  There is so much information on the internet that I went ahead and put lotsa information on this page for you. 

How to cook pasta perfectly every time:

1. Boil 4 to 6 quarts of water for one pound of dry pasta. (You can divide this recipe depending on how much pasta you are cooking.)

2. Add the pasta with a stir and return the water to a boil.

3. Stir the pasta occasionally during cooking.

4. Follow the package directions for cooking times. If the pasta is to be used as part of a dish that requires further cooking, undercook the pasta by 1/3 of the cooking time specified on the package.

5. Taste the pasta to determine if it is done. Perfectly cooked pasta should be "al dente," or firm to the bite, yet cooked through.

6. Drain pasta immediately and follow the rest of the recipe.

 

The National Pasta Association offers these tips and meal solutions to make healthy and quick cooking a reality.

·         When creating an impromptu pasta dish, remember that "less is more" and limit the number of ingredients that you use. Oil, garlic, crushed tomatoes, fresh basil and hot pepper flakes is one delicious combination.

·         Be creative! Toss pasta with a little vegetable oil, tomato or broth for a simple sauce.
Try a no-cook sauce by marinating tomatoes, chopped fresh mozzarella and fresh basil leaves in a little oil. Toss with hot pasta for a quick, delicious meal.

·         For a change of taste, try pureed roasted red peppers as a sauce.

·         Keep fresh herbs on hand as a quick and easy way to add a lot of flavor. Basil, which has a very fresh, delicate flavor, is best added to sauces at the last minute to maximize its flavor. Rosemary is woodsy, so it's especially suited to cream sauces and earthy ingredients, like mushrooms. Because sage is so pungent, it stands up well in heartier pasta dishes with veal and pork.

·         For a nutrient-packed meal, top pasta with chopped or mixed vegetables and a favorite bottled sauce.

·         When creating a sauce, start with broths or vegetables, and vegetable purees as a bases instead of cream and butter. Experiment with spices and fresh herbs to add interest and flavor. Experiment with ingredients that stimulate the texture of fat - without the fat. One way to slim down your favorite lasagne recipe, for instance, is to cut the quantity of ricotta cheese in half and puree it with two large eggplants that have been roasted and peeled.

·         Use a blender or a juicer to create your own combinations of vegetable purees. Then just bring to a simmer with your favorite herbs and spices and toss with pasta.

·         Pairing pasta with legumes, such as beans and lentils, or low-fat dairy products makes for protein-rich, but inexpensive and delicious meatless meals.

·         Instead of meat, try adding vegetables to a light tomato sauce for a plenty of flavor and crunch.

·         Add leftover pasta to your favorite soup. If you use dry pasta, simmer the soup for an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked.

·         Experiment with new cuisines - purchase interesting-sounding ethnic spices and use them at home with more familiar ingredients, like pasta. For instance, try cilantro instead of basil in your favorite pesto recipe, or spicy chiles like Serranos or Poblanos in a traditional pasta dish with chicken.

·         Prepare a main dish pasta salad following the Food Guide Pyramid. Start with cooked pasta, add vegetables or fruit, top with a small portions of meat or cheese, and use only small amounts of salad dressing. Serve fruit for dessert.

·         Top pasta with leftovers - cooked vegetables, ground meat, chicken, or even a small amount of vegetable soup. Or combine with a low-fat salad dressings or spoonful yogurt.

·         Use fruit to balance spicy dishes. Tropical fruits like mangoes and pineapple temper hot flavors, and balance and brighten, as well. Apples work well with curries, and bananas add a delicious counterpoint to hot chile peppers.

·         Think texture as well as flavor. Add a toss of toasted pine nuts or toasted chopped walnuts to a creamy pasta sauce for added interest.

·         Don't be afraid to substitute ingredients. If you plan to use zucchini in a pasta sauce, but the eggplant looks particularly good, substitute the eggplant.

·         Double your favorite recipes, and freeze the extra servings for later use. This works especially well with sauces and baked pasta dishes like lasagne.

·         Make mealtime more enjoyable by serving different, fun shapes - stars, letters, wheels and the all-time kid favorite ... spaghetti. Introduce young pasta eaters to finger-friendly sizes like ziti, rotini (spirals), and radiatore (radiators).

·         Keep leftover cooked pasta in the refrigerator for up to three days. When it's time to reheat, simply put it in a colander an then place it directly into boiling water for one minute.

·         For egg noodles and short goods, like elbow macaroni, shells, spirals, wagon wheels, mostaccioli, ziti, etc., 2 ounces uncooked is 1/2 cup dry and just over 1/2 cup cooked.

·         For long goods such as spaghetti, angel hair, vermicelli, linguine, etc., 2 ounces uncooked equals 1/2 inch bunch dry and 1cup cooked.

·         To make a single portion of pasta use approximately 1/2 cup dry pasta or measure 1/2 inch diameter of dry long pasta (1 cup or 2 grain servings cooked). Freeze 1/2 cup portions of favorite sauces to defrost and use as needed.

·         Use only small amounts of vegetable oils, margarine and vegetable cooking spray when preparing pasta dishes.

 

Don’t know how much pasta to cook?  It all depends on what type of pasta you are cooking. 
Here is a basic chart to help guide you through that decision:

Type of pasta

Uncooked weight

=

Cooked amount

Small to medium pasta shapes
(Elbow Macaroni, Medium Shells, Rotini, Twists, Spirals,
Wagon Wheels, Bow Ties, Mostaccioli, Penne, Radiatore, Rigatoni)

8 oz. uncooked

=

4 cups cooked

Long pasta shapes
(Spaghetti, Angel Hair, Linguine, Vermicelli, Fettuccine)

8 oz. uncooked or
1 1/2 inch diameter bunch

=

4 cups cooked

Egg Noodles

8 oz. uncooked

=

2 1/2 cups cooked

 

We love pasta at my house. We make Chinese noodle stir fry’s, noodle soups, Italian fare in many shapes and sizes and our favorite comfort food, macaroni and cheese.  There is a bit of a zip to this recipe, so the cayenne is optional.

Spicy Macaroni and Cheese

Yield: 6-8 as an entrée

 ½ sleeve saltine crackers
1 oz sharp cheddar cheese

1 # elbow macaroni

5 T unsalted butter
6 T all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp powdered mustard
¼ tsp cayenne pepper (opt)
5 c milk (fat free ok)
2 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 c shredded Monterey jack cheese 

In a food processor, process the crackers and cheese into fine crumbs. Set aside.

Boil the elbow macaroni in plenty of boiling water.  Drain.  Set aside.

In the now empty pan, melt the butter with the flour, powdered mustard and cayenne.  Whisk until mixture become fragrant and deepens in color, about 1-2 minutes.  Gradually stir in the milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Simmer 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and whisk in cheeses.

Stir pasta into cheese sauce and pour into a 13x9” pan.  Sprinkle with cracker/cheese topping.  Bake in a 325 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, until the crumbs are golden brown.

 

 

 

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