Pass the pasta

Light and comforting, Italian pasta dishes are easy and delicious.

Whole wheat penne Mediterranean (photo credit: STUDIO SALIS)
Whole wheat penne Mediterranean
(photo credit: STUDIO SALIS)
It is hot and stressful and definitely not the time for complicated cooking. However, we need to eat and we need comfort.
Unlike winter’s comfort food, pasta with a light, quick and tasty sauce is the order of the day. Opt for recipes for pasta sauces that require little or no cooking, boil the pasta water and keep the kitchen cool and clean.
All you need is good dry pasta, a piece of grating cheese, some extra-virgin olive oil and herbs, and you have dinner. Halve cherry tomatoes, add a coarsely chopped bunch of basil, a few garlic cloves and mix it all together with extra-virgin olive oil.
When the pasta is al dente, drain, toss with the tomato mixture and add crumbled goat cheese or mozzarella. The hot pasta melts the cheese into a creamy sauce, and the basil and garlic add a pleasant zest.
Most uncooked sauces should be at room temperature prior to blending with hot pasta. Look for pasta made with durum wheat (semolina) flour imported from Italy because it doesn’t get mushy when it is cooked.
Use long pasta with sauces that have a creamy texture (the sauce will stick to the noodles). Use short pasta with sauces that are chunky (the bits of sauce will cling to the nooks and crannies).
PASTA SALAD Serves 4 ✔ 500 gr. short curly pasta (such as cellentani) ✔ 300 gr. carrots, peeled ✔ 300 gr. shallots, peeled ✔ 4 celery stalks ✔ Juice of 1 lemon ✔ 3 Tbsp. olive oil ✔ 100 ml. white wine ✔ 100 gr. butter ✔ Salt and pepper ✔ 150 gr. good feta cheese (such as Hameiri Bulgarit) Cut the vegetables: Halve the shallots lengthwise, cut carrots into large slices, and slice the celery into 1-cm. slices.
Heat the oil in a heavy skillet and sauté the vegetables. When they begin to soften, add the white wine and the butter.
Continue cooking until sauce is creamy.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat.
Add the lemon juice and mix.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to instructions and drain. Transfer the pasta to a large salad bowl, add the vegetable sauce and crumble the cheese on top. Serve in the middle of the table.
WHOLE-WHEAT SPAGHETTI WITH ASPARAGUS (COVER PHOTO) Makes 2 main dishes or 4 starters ✔ 200 gr. whole-wheat spaghetti ✔ 3 or 4 fresh asparagus ✔ 4 fresh shiitake mushrooms (or other large mushrooms) ✔ 1 jar dried cherry tomatoes in olive oil ✔ ½ cup dry white wine ✔ 25 gr. butter ✔ 4 or 5 cloves garlic, sliced ✔ Parmesan cheese Cook pasta according to instructions.
Drain and set aside.
Cut each asparagus spear into 4. Cut the mushroom into 4 to 6 slices each.
Pour the oil from the tomato jar into a large and deep pan and heat. Sauté garlic, vegetables and tomatoes in the oil until fragrant. Add the wine and bring to a boil.
Cook until wine is reduced a little. Add butter, season with salt and pepper.
Add pasta into the pan and toss. Serve with grated Parmesan on the side.
PASTA WITH CREAM OF EGGPLANT Serves 4 ✔ 500 gr. fettuccine or spaghetti ✔ 2 eggplants ✔ 200 gr. grated Parmesan ✔ 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar ✔ Olive oil ✔ Salt and pepper Heat oven to 240°. Place eggplants on a baking sheet and bake until tender. Remove from oven, cool and peel the eggplants.
Place the flesh in a blender together with the Parmesan cheese and blend until smooth and creamy.
Cook pasta according to instructions.
In a deep and large pan, heat oil and balsamic vinegar. Add the cooked pasta and the eggplant cream. Season with salt and pepper and serve with grated Parmesan cheese on the side.
WHOLE-WHEAT PENNE MEDITERRANEAN Serves 4 ✔ 500 gr. whole-wheat penne ✔ 1 jar dried cherry tomatoes in olive oil ✔ 1 small eggplant ✔ 1 each yellow, red and green pepper ✔ 1 jar artichoke hearts ✔ 1 sprig broccoli, florets only ✔ ⅓ cup Kalamata olives, pitted ✔ 3 or 4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced ✔ 2 Tbsp. pine nuts ✔ Parmesan cheese, grated Cook pasta according to instructions.
Roast the pine nuts briefly on a small dry skillet until golden. Watch out – they burn easily. Transfer to a bowl.
Cut peppers into small cubes. You will need about 1 cup. Reserve the rest for a salad.
Cut the eggplant into small cubes.
Pour the oil of the cherry tomatoes jar into a large pan and heat. Sauté the garlic in the oil, add the eggplant and cook until softened.
Add the peppers and the broccoli florets and continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, artichokes and olives and cook while tossing for 2 to 3 minutes. When pasta is cooked, drain and add to the pan with the vegetables. Toss together, season and transfer to a serving dish. Top with grated Parmesan and pine nuts and serve. ■
Recipes and photos courtesy of Barilla Pasta.
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