Super Simple to the table in less than 30 min Pasta!

Posted on September 27, 2011

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I view pasta a bit differently after visiting Italy. The pasta itself has a better flavor, and is never gummy and overcooked. I have since become addicted to imported, air-dried pasta that I can purchase at Caputo’s, an Italian deli and market in Salt Lake City.  It does cost more, but then it stretches farther because it is more satisfying.  I can get a pound to feed our family of six, but with regular pasta I usually have to cook a pound and a half.  So in my book it equals out.  And did I mention it is far superior in taste and texture?  I think I did, so I will cease the rambling.  I guess you can tell I am excited about it.

I used to serve Spaghetti all the time when I was a young bride.  It was fast, simple, and always good.  Then I started having kids–and they liked spaghetti too.  I have expanded my skills since then.  There is a lot more to pasta than spaghetti.  And funny thing, I learned that Italians would never serve spaghetti with meatballs or a meat sauce.  Meat sauces would be served with a more hearty noodle, like rigatoni.  Spaghetti is reserved for butter and garlic and/or lemon.

One of our favorite pasta shapes is orchietta, or “little ears.”  They are tiny little cups which cling to seasoning and flavor very well.

To make a pasta dish in 30 min or less, follow these basic rules:

Get your pot of water boiling.  Be sure to generously salt the water.

Meanwhile, start with olive oil and, if you like, a pat of butter.

Saute something flavorful: onions, ham, sausage, garlic

Add veggies: whatever you want!

Add the cooked pasta along with a bit of the pasta water to your sauté pan.

Give it a cook stir to coat.  Add salt and pepper and freshly grated parmesan to taste.

Serve!

Here are a few combinations we love:

While your water is coming to a boil, sauté:

Hot Italian sausage (bulk, not links).  Once nearly cooked, add a heaping Tablespoon of minced garlic.

Cook the pasta.  When you think the pasta has about 5-7 minutes to go, add about 4-6 cups broccoli flowerets to the pasta.

Once the pasta and broccoli are done, just use a large, slotted spoon and add the pasta, broccoli, and some pasta water to the pan with the sausage.  Stir to coat.  Adjust seasonings and add about 1/2 c. freshly grated parmesan.

My kids ask for this all the time.  A sure fire way to see them eat broccoli!

Here is another combination:

While the water comes to a boil, heat of a large pan with 2 T. Olive oil and 2 T butter.

Saute a large diced red onion.  Cook until soft.  Then add about 2/3 c. chopped ham, pancetta, or canadian bacon.  Saute for a few minutes, then add 2 tsp minced garlic.

Once that is cooked up and your pasta is well underway, wilt a whole bunch of spinach greens in the pan with the bacon and onion.  You can also use swiss chard or beet greens (although you would want to add those earlier as they are a bit more hearty). Just keep adding the spinach–you can add in at least an entire pre-washed bag, but sometimes I even add more.  Tons of spinach reduces to an amazingly small amount.

Now that the pasta is done, start scooping the pasta right out of the pan, along with some water, into the ham-spinach mixture.  Toss to coat.  Adjust seasonings, and freshly grated parmesan to taste.

So, really, if you have some pasta supplies on hand, it might help out on those busy nights where you would normally be tempted to drive through somewhere.  I have read that one of the reasons Italians have not succumbed as much to fast food culture is because they know they can whip up something delicious quickly and with minimal mess.  Pasta IS their fast food.

A note on cooking pasta: be sure to cook pasta al dente.  It should still have a firm bite in the center.  It should not taste raw; it should be cooked but firm.  Pasta cooked correctly enters your bloodstream slowly, like healthy carbs.  Overcooked pasta that is sticky and mushy enters your bloodstream like a piece of cake would, and causes spikes in blood sugar.  Pasta has gotten a bad rap in the US, mostly because we tend to eat it in huge quantities and completely overcooked.

Have fun coming up with combinations…..and I would love to hear of anything you come up with!

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