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It is no secret that Americans love pasta, so much so that the National Pasta Association claims that the typical American household eats a pasta dish at least twice a week. While pasta is an American passion, our love of it comes from a mostly global influence; the English introduced the concept of mixing soft pasta with cheese and heavy cream, where the Italians introduced fresh garlic, pungent cheeses, and crisp vegetables. And sometime around the early 1800’s some brilliant Italian homemaker decided to pair her fresh pasta with the bounty of her tomato garden, and a simple pasta & sauce recipe was born. Regardless the origin of the pasta recipe, we Americans adore the savory, saucy and mostly cheesy plates of pasta and gobble it up with gusto!
If you are wondering what’s so special about pasta, consider the following:
Pasta is Versatile
Are you are a vegetarian, or are you a complete carnivore? When it comes to pasta, it doesn’t matter where you stand. As I’ll show you below, pasta goes perfectly with nearly everything. It can stand up the meatiest and richest of sauces, to the most delicate butter and wine combinations. What’s more, the pasta shapes and styles are extremely versatile, ranging from a classic spaghetti or bucatini noodle (a hollow spaghetti noodle, that is great with a homemade marinara sauce to the famous short ziti noodle that stands up to the thickest layers of cheese in comforting baked casserole.
Are you gluten-free, or following a lower carb lifestyle? Pasta is a great option, while traditional pasta is made from Semonilia or Durham wheat, there are tons of different possibilities. Your local market is most likely stocked with noodles made from either gluten-free or grain-free ingredients – you can even find pasta made from vegetables or tofu.
Pasta is Budget Friendly
Pasta is a great grocery budget stretcher. The Pasta itself is very affordable, a typical one pound box of pasta will most likely cost right around two bucks (and that is from my local grocery store here in Chicago – so you might find for even cheaper). Pasta is also a great example of a perfect pantry essential – when pasta goes on sale (for example 10 boxes for ten bucks) – you really should stock up. I almost always have a box or two of pasta in the pantry, allowing me to extend a simple supper into a budget-friendly feast. Here is a pro tip – if you have a bunch of vegetables that are about ready to go south, why not prepare a simple vegetable-forward primavera recipe with a few extra dollars of ingredients (if you already don’t have it on hand) – you can create a relaxed and nutritious meal with minimum fuss.
Pasta Dishes are Easy
For all of you who are either too busy or are dissuaded by complicated recipes. Instead of ordering takeout, why not follow a simple recipe and prepare a healthy and mouth-watering meal in a few minutes? Pasta is a lifesaver for those days when you must have dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes. I can not stress this enough – pasta is my go to for a quick, easy and delicious meal.
The combination of pasta and a savory sauce is a recipe for a perfect meal; I have hand selected the following dishes in honor of National Pasta Month, celebrated every year in October. They are all easy to make and are huge on flavor. Your family is going to love them.
After you sample my recipes, feel free to post your homemade creations on social media using the tags #ICookedThis #RecipeSavants and #NationalPastaMonth.
Are you looking for a healthy and vegetable-forward pasta recipe? Consider my homemade ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese. All you need are fresh eggs, spinach, ricotta cheese, all-purpose flour and olive oil. If you are not up for making your pasta, don’t worry your Italian market most likely has fresh pasta sheets ready for you to stuff. If you are looking for an even more straightforward adaptation of this recipe, forgo with the homemade pasta, and stuff shells with the spinach and ricotta mixture – it is delicious.
Not all pasta dishes need to be loaded with cheese to be delicious, this simple salad inspired by the classic pasta salads of the Hawaiian Islands features al dente pasta, crisp vegetables, and a creamy mayonnaise dressing. It is one of my favorite summertime pasta salad recipes, is always great when paired with a Polynesian or Tropical menu.
Pasta Carbonara is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. The combination of bacon, eggs, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese result in the most creamy sauce, without a touch of heavy cream. This pasta recipe is flat out simple, from start to finish it is done in under 20 minutes. If you are looking for ways to elevate your Carbonara, feel free to switch out the bacon for Pancetta or Prosciutto.
This recipe is a modern spin on classic comfort food. Here I boost the savory flavors of the macaroni by pairing it with a touch of crisp white wine, and gooey Cheddar cheese. If you are not a fan of cooking with wine, don’t worry this dish would be just as good when made with an English ale. Or you could even forgo the alcohol altogether and use a touch of vegetable stock. This is one of my favorite dishes to make for an upscale dinner party, or a holiday buffet (it is often featured on my Thanksgiving table)!
This stuffed shell recipe is a hit with both the kids and kids at heart. I stuff simple shells with a savory mixture of ground beef (feel free to substitute ground chicken or turkey if you want) and sweet Italian sausage, and top with a homemade pasta sauce and gooey cheese mixture. It takes about 20 minutes of prep work and then bakes in the oven. It is an excellent recipe for a fast weeknight meal.
When I make a batch of authentic Bolognese sauce, I never skimp on the ingredients. This recipe makes a lot of sauce, enough for at least 12 servings – so consider investing in the best ingredients to get the richest and deepest meat flavor. This sauce is great on spaghetti, but can also be easily added as a base to your baked ziti or lasagna recipes. I have included tips in the above recipe, to freeze and even cook this sauce in a slow cooker, something I often do.
It only takes 10 minutes and a few simple steps, to make a fresh batch of Pesto and Pea sauce. This vegetarian sauce is a savory delight, and one of my favorite ways to add an extra serving of vegetables to my diet. Even if you don’t like the taste of spinach, I know you will love this sauce – the combination of the fresh spinach, peas, and Parmesan cheese pair perfectly with fresh pasta for a drop-dead simple meal.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of Lasagna recipes, and my recipe pays homage to the classic cherished recipes from the Italian grandma’s of the world. This recipe is the ideal balance of homemade bolognese sauce (using the above recipe), loads of ground beef and sweet (or hot, as I would use myself) Italian sausage, and a savory mixture of Parmesan, Mozzarella, and Ricotta cheeses. If you only have one traditional lasagna recipe in your collection, this is a great one.
Please take some time today, and celebrate National Pasta Month, in style, try one or two of my featured recipes, and make sure to post your successes to social media. Happy eating!
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Check Out This Great Featured Blog: Vegan Friendly Soy Based Foods
This blog post includes information on the history of the soybean, which is the basis for many vegan proteins, including tofu and tempeh. They include some brief suggestions for vegan recipes, including a vegan dessert.