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Mix 'n Match Pasta

CDKitchen Cooking Columnist Christine Gable
About the author: Christine Gable
Culinary enthusiast; kids cuisine and slow cooking; magazine recipe developer; professional writer. Her simple recipes are great for family dinners.
Just yesterday I looked in my pantry and was speechless: no pasta left? No boxes or bags of elbows, spirals or linguine left anywhere? Of course, after the kitchen’s demolition and remodeling (complete with house painting), that’s probably not quite such an unusual happening, eh? Just getting everyone fed and keeping our lives going through that major routine-upheaval had me thinking about things that didn’t include pasta. But it’s one thing that I committed to that I’ll do from here on out: keep an A-1 selection of different sizes and shapes of this all-around handy-dandy food on hand.

Remember that old advertising jingle—the incredible, edible egg? Well, I think incredible edible pasta makes an even better combo. For not only is it one food that most everyone loves—yes, kids included—but it’s quick and easy to prepare. It’s also comfort food at its best. Just think mac ‘n cheese and buttered noodles, right? And thanks to whole-grain semolina varieties, it’s no slacker in the nutrition department either.

Made from durum wheat, the semolina flour used for pasta is considered a complex carbohydrate—which helps to provide a slower, more even release of energy versus the quick-burst that simple carbs like white flour products and sugars are known for. And without that notorious “afternoon drop” in energy. Another plus: according to the National Pasta Association, ½ cup of pasta contains only 99 calories.

So next time you head to the market, check out the different pasta options. Go ahead and have your kids help pick out some new and different kinds too. I’ve found that opening up the cupboard door to an array of shapes and sizes of different pastas can definitely spur some creative dinner ideas. And really, when you’re in a pinch, who can complain about boiling a pot of shells or elbows and tossing some butter or cheese with them?

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Pasta goes with any protein or salad, any day of the week. Or boil up a pot of linguine or fettuccine and sauté some garlic, onion, mushrooms, peppers—you name it—to toss in. Of course, seasonings can vary depending upon your family’s favorites, but we can always go for the Italian and Greek flavors: olive oil, oregano, basil … and if you’re feeling more adventurous, toss some spinach, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil in the food processor. Right there’s a fast-and-easy pesto that’s all set to stir into angel hair or fettuccine. And don’t forget the old stand-by: spaghetti. Keep a jar of prepared sauce and a box of this all-time favorite just at the ready for a quick and satisfying Italian meal.

Go ahead and have fun experimenting with different shapes, sizes and additions—get your kids involved and see what new and exciting flavors you can discover together!

Pasta Variations:
• Peppers – red, green, hot or sweet
• Capers or black olives
• Sautéed onion
• Hard cheeses: grated Parmesan or Romano
• Soft cheeses: goat cheese, smoked mozzarella
• Veggies: spinach, radicchio, parsley, scallions, mushrooms, zucchini
• Pine nuts
• Pepperoni or prosciutto
• Red pepper flakes
• Bacon crumbles
• Sausage
• Fresh herbs: garlic, chives, oregano


Next Week: Hotdogs, Anyone?


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