Pasta! It’s more than just spaghetti and meatballs

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 26, 2019

By Deirdre Parker Smith

All right, all right, I hear you.

“I’m not on a diet. I want something fast and filling.”

Well, one sure way to fill up is by eating carbs — pasta, rice, potatoes, bread.

And yes, I get that kids love carbs, especially pasta.

How many times have you popped open that jar of pasta sauce, browned some ground beef and called it dinner? Nothing wrong with that. Serve it with a simple salad, as simple as lettuce and tomato, and you have prepared a complete and very acceptable meal.

Or, you slide a frozen pizza in the oven or nuke a few potatoes and load them with cheese.

Can we improve a little on the basics?

Moms have been known to sneak shredded, cooked carrots into the pasta sauce. And that pepperoni pizza? Toss on some fresh tomatoes and mushrooms for some of the crowd.

Add a little broccoli to that cheesy potato.

But back to pasta, the 10-12-minute dinner saver.

Try these for dinner one night:

For grown-ups tired of red sauce, use just a few simple ingredients for a savory, company-worthy dish.

Easy Green Olive Pasta

1 pound dried spaghetti or linguine

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 1/2 cups green olives (not stuffed), such as Castelvetrano, pitted, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

Juice of 1 medium lemon

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley

Freshly ground black pepper

Kosher salt

Shaved Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, for serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook 1 minute less than al dente, about 8 minutes. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the olives and garlic and cook until softened and fragrant, 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.

Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta. Return the skillet to medium high heat and add the pasta and reserved pasta water. Simmer, tossing and stirring the pasta, until it is al dente and the sauce thickens and coats the pasta, 1-2 minutes. Add the parsley and a few grinds of black pepper and toss to combine. Check seasoning and adjust as necessary. Divide into shallow bowls, top with shaved Parmesan or Pecorino before serving.

Tuscan Tortellini Skillet

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 pounds plum or Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of red pepper flakes

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 (8 oz.) packages fresh cheese tortellini or 1 (19 oz.) bag frozen cheese tortellini

2 cups packed baby spinach

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed 10- or 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the tomatoes, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes, if using. Cook until the tomatoes soften and release their juices, 5-6 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Increase the heat to medium-high, stir in the tortellini, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tortellini is plump and tender, 3 to 5 minutes or according to package instructions.

Remove from the heat and stir in the spinach until it just wilts, about 1 minute. Serve immediately with plenty of grated Parmesan cheese.

the kitchn

One-Pan Chicken Parmesan Pasta

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1/2 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs

1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. minced garlic, divided

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

1/4 tsp. salt

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes

8 ounces whole-wheat penne

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium high heat. Add panko and 1 tsp. garlic. Cook, stirring until the panko is golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes.Transfer to a small bowl and set aside. Wipe out the pan.

Heat the remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in the pan over medium- high heat. Add chicken, Italian seasoning, salt and remaining 1 Tbsp. garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the chicken is no longer pink on the outside, about 2 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes and penne. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until the penne is cooked and the sauce has reduced and thickened, 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, position an oven rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the broiler to high. When the pasta is cooked, sprinkle mozzarella over the penne mixture. Place the pan under the broiler; broil until the mozzarella is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Top with the panko mixture, Parmesan and basil.

Eating Well

Sloppy Joe Mac ’n Cheese

Kosher salt

1 pound macaroni

1 pound ground beef

Freshly ground black pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, diced

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

2 cups crushed tomatoes

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp. chili powder

1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley, plus more for garnish

2 cups grated mozzarella, divided

Bring an 8-quart stock pot of water to a boil and generously season with salt. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain and return to pot.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, over medium-high heat, brown beef, breaking up meat with a spoon. Season with salt and pepper, then drain fat. Add garlic and onions and cook until softened, 2 minutes, then add brown sugar, tomatoes, Worcestershire and chili powder and simmer, 10 minutes.

Drain pasta and add to skillet over low heat. Stir in parsley and half the mozzarella, then quickly toss together to evenly coat pasta. Top with remaining mozzarella and cover with lid to melt cheese.

Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.