SPEND LESS, EAT BETTER: Summer Pasta, Ready to Eat
Summer pasta can be so much more than limp rotini in oil or soggy elbows smothered with mayonnaise.
Pasta is the ultimate cheap meal -- even the new whole-grain varieties -- with vast vegetarian variations. Pasta also stretches a small amount of meat or seafood. Pasta is wonderful hot, chilled or when dressed with olive oil, at room temperature.
Start with a trip to the farmers market for basic primavera.
Think about color: red tomatoes, yellow squash, green scallions, orange carrots, purple eggplant. Consider texture: soft spinach, crunchy snow peas and celery, curly kale, delightfully slimy okra. Instead of drowning fresh vegetables in marinara as restaurants do, let them stand alone.
Cut veggies into chunks and saut in fruity olive oil until crisp-tender, adding spinach and snow peas last. Cook angel hair pasta al dente; drain well, swirl in a small amount of olive oil, some basil leaves and a pressed garlic clove. Pour hot pasta into a warmed pasta bowl. Top with sauted vegetables. At the table, grate Parmesan or other hard cheese over the dish and serve with pasta tongs. Beautiful. Delicious. Plus, leftovers taste great cool, for lunch.
Asian flavors match well whether you believe Marco Polo brought pasta out of China or not. Try rice pasta, called rice noodles or sticks. Break into small lengths and prepare according to package directions. Make a simple sauce by stirring ginger-flavored soy sauce and Thai fish sauce into enough chicken broth to moisten rice pasta. Mix in a sliced scallion, some cilantro leaves, thinly sliced (on the diagonal) celery, blanched snow peas, lime juice and cooked shrimp.
To make a few shrimp look like more, after cooking slice in half lengthwise.
Top rice noodles with chopped salted peanuts.
This isn't exactly pad thai but near enough.
I keep a bowl of peanut noodles in the fridge for quick lunches: blend (in blender) a cup of hot chicken broth, a garlic clove, a splash of soy sauce, a slice of ginger root, 1/3 cup natural-style peanut butter with the oil from top of jar. Cook a pound of thin spaghetti and toss with sauce while hot, adding a little more oil and broth if necessary. Grate a raw carrot over the pasta and toss again.
Choose interesting shapes for pasta salads, especially orecchiette (little ears) and farfalle (bow ties). For a colorful, unusual sauce cook lightly, drain, then puree a package of tiny frozen peas with two garlic cloves, a slice of sweet onion, a handful of parsley leaves, about cup olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. The sauce will be thick and bright green. Mix into a cooked pasta shape. Chill to blend flavors.
As always, ready-to-go pasta (or anything else) in the fridge lessens the take-out urge which, over the summer, will save many, many dollars.
Contact Deborah Salomon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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