First off, let me say that me referring to “pasta” goes against everything I learned growing up. It was called “noodles.” We had tomato sauce and noodles (a family comfort food) and tuna fish and noodles (also a comfort food for us). The only pasta that wasn’t referred to as noodles was spaghetti – spaghetti and meatballs (my Mom was not Italian, but I did LOVE when she made hers). Fast forward to when I was raising my boys, and they called it pasta – either from school, or from their friends’ houses. Who knows. Either way, I have always loved pasta – in every form. I don’t care what shape it is, or what sauce goes on top – it has always been one of my top favorite things to eat. And, because of this – I always keep a wide variety of shapes, etc. in the house to make meals from. Considering the current crisis we are in, I decided to think about (and write about) different easy kind of meals, based on pasta. Or noodles.
You can make a Pasta All’Amatricana – which, before I looked it up, never really had an exact name in my mind. This dish is about six strips of bacon, some crushed red pepper (how much depends on how hot you like things), some chopped onions and two cans (medium sized) of peeled/chopped tomatoes (with or without basil or garlic – your choice). Cook your bacon, then saute the onions. As these finish cooking, add your tomatoes – at this point it will start to thicken, and if you want – you can sprinkle grated cheese on top. Combine and mix with either a 12 or 16 ounce box of pasta, previously cooked (spaghetti or something similar is recommended) and serve.
A very easy and basic dish is Spaghetti with Garlic and Oil. Boil a box of spaghetti (whatever kind you like, regular or thin). Once this cools, add a bit of olive oil, a bit of minced garlic, some black pepper, dried or fresh parsley – maybe even some grated cheese. This is always referred to as a side dish, but to me – it is a meal in itself.
If you want a MEAL meal, try Spaghetti (or “pasta”) with Eggplant. Take a large eggplant, and cut it up – you can do slices, you can do chunks – it is up to you. Taking your cut eggplant, drizzle with oil and spices – garlic, onion, parsley, Italian seasoning. Bake in your oven, 350 degrees for about an hour, give or take. I usually pour a bit of sauce over the top – either homemade if I have it handy, or jarred sauce – as it is cooking. With this meal, I would probably serve ziti or rotini – it is so good, it is so filling. And it is usually well received.
Spaghetti with Lemon Butter, Spaghetti with Lemon Butter and Tuna, Spaghetti with Lemon Butter and Peas – sounds good? I thought so too. Boil your spaghetti – again, whatever kind you like – regular, thin, angel hair – or even fettucine. As your noodles (haha, yes I know – pasta) are getting done – make your sauce – use 4 tablespoons of butter (or margarine, if that is what you like), and add the other ingredients – some lemon zest, some canned tuna (part of, or a whole can) or peas (whatever kind you like to use), maybe even some grated cheese – toss, and toss good. Here is your meal, and it will be SO delicious…
Elbow Macaroni with Sausage, Broccoli and Mozzarella – sounds easy, and it is. Cook your pasta, and get your other ingredients ready – cook/brown the sausage, cook/boil/steam your broccoli and cut your mozzarella (if you don’t have already shredded). Once the pasta is done, dump the other ingredients on top, and toss, toss, toss. Always feel free to add whatever spices might sound good to you. This will be a meal that you will love – I promise you that!
It is pretty easy to make a Lasagna – any kind. You can use only meat, mostly meat, mostly veggies or only veggies. Totally up to you. The basics of lasagna is layering – sauce, noodles, filling (and here is what you want to add) and then sauce, noodles, filling. I usually do three layers. I am a firm believer of mozzarella cheese and sauce being the be all and end all. Once your layers are done, cover. Bake for about 40 minutes. Take out of oven, cover with shredded cheese and put back in the oven for 20 more minutes. You will soon have dinner perfection!
I have made sauces, which are simple enough and once poured over “a” pasta, you will have a meal to enjoy. Heat your sauce – either homemade or jarred – and add a large dollop of grated cheese – simple, easy but oh so good. Do the same thing with the sauce and cheese, but add a small can of sliced mushrooms (drain the liquid it comes with). Add some previously grilled frozen pepper mix, with grated cheese. Take some of your frozen, pre-cooked ground meat – spaghetti and meat sauce. The best ideas come from all of our imaginations.
I love pasta (noodles), and as many ideas as I have to enjoy it – I want more! What can you recommend? Help a pasta addict, please!