Use your noodles!
Story and photos by Angie Sutton
I was browsing the aisles at the grocery store and as I trolled through aisle 10 it occurred to me that there are a lot of different types of pasta. I’m guilty of grabbing the same-old, same-old bag of elbow macaroni and box of thin spaghetti as I literally run down the grocery list. But today I’m taking my time, looking on shelves that are usually just a blur.
There’s long pasta, ribbon-cut pasta, short-cut extruded pasta, decorative pasta, minute pasta, stuffed pasta, and irregular shaped pasta. Add to that the specialty lines that are gluten-free, vegetable infused and artisanal varieties. So I set out to expand my family’s exposure to the wide-world-of-pasta!
According to the National Pasta Association (NPA), the average American consumes 20 pounds of pasta annually. This makes it the sixth highest food per capita in the country as we eat a total of 6 billion pounds of pasta a year. The association says 4.4 billion pounds of pasta are produced here in the United States each year, ranking us the second largest pasta-producing nation.
Pasta is an economical staple for your pantry and, when eaten in the correct portions, has a place in your diet. Actually, pasta is a great partner for delivering healthy food you should have each day including nutrient-dense foods. Pasta partners like anti-oxidant rich tomato sauce and protein-packed cheese and lean meats create meals that you can feel good about.
With so many types of pasta, gauging the serving size can be confusing. The NPA provides a comparison snapshot:
For short pastas and egg noodles, like elbow macaroni, shells, spirals, wagon wheels, ziti, etc., two ounces uncooked is roughly equal to 1/2 cup dry and about 1 cup cooked. Larger, bulkier shapes such as bowties, penne rigate, rigatoni, and wide noodles may yield more, while smaller shapes such as stars or alphabets may yield less. For long goods such as spaghetti, angel hair, vermicelli, linguine, etc., two ounces uncooked equal 1/2-inch bunch dry and 1 cup cooked.
To make a single portion of pasta use approximately 1/2 cup dry pasta or measure 1/2 inch diameter of dry long pasta (1 cup or 2 grain servings cooked).
In response to dietary guidance urging Americans to include more whole grains in their diets, manufacturers have introduced nutritionally enhanced pasta varieties such as whole wheat, whole grain and pasta fortified with omega-3 fatty acids and additional fiber. Some varieties of whole grain pasta can provide up to 25 percent of daily fiber requirements in every one cup portion.
When cooking your pasta, you should typically follow the package directions. To add flavor and reduce stickiness, add salt to boiling water before adding pasta. Your recipe may call for al dente pasta if it is to be further cooked or baked in the dish.
Here are a few of the recipes we tried this week.
B.L.T. Pappardelle Pasta
One thing I like about pasta is that you can easily adapt it to the season. This is bacon, lettuce and tomato season in our home. The pappardelle pasta is a large, very broad and flat noodle, similar to wide fettuccini. This dish can be served warm or chilled and served 6.
1 lb. sliced bacon
In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels and crumble or break into bite-size pieces. Reserve 1 tablespoon bacon grease. Whisk 1 tablespoon bacon grease in a bowl with vinegar, mayo, olive oil, onion, salt and pepper until combined. Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain and toss with vinaigrette. Stir in bacon, tomatoes and lettuce.
Adapted from Ladies Home Journal.
This casserole-type pasta dish utilizes elbow macaroni, a pantry staple. I found that letting the casserole stand for about 30 minutes before cutting and serving allowed the liquid to be absorbed. This recipe served 6.
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic until translucent, about 7 minutes. Stir in beef and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserve 1 tablespoon of fat. Stir in tomatoes, oregano, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Uncover and simmer 15 minutes more. Meanwhile, cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour for 1 minute. Increase heat to high and add milk, remaining salt and pepper, and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Remove from heat. In a small bowl beat eggs. Beat 1 cup of the hot cream mixture into the eggs, then beat the egg mixture into the cream sauce. Whisk 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese in. Heat oven to 375 F. Grease a shallow, 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Cover bottom with half the macaroni. Layer with 1 1/2 cups of the cheese sauce. Spread the meat mixture evenly over the cheese sauce. Layer with remaining macaroni, then sprinkle with feta cheese. Top with remaining cheese sauce and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake until golden and bubbling, about 35 minutes. Let stand 30 minutes before serving.
Hay and Straw
This is one of the kids favorite dishes. This recipe serves about 5.
8 oz. dried spinach fettuccini
Cook pastas according to package directions. Drain. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add prosciutto and cook 1 minute. Stir in cream and cook 1 minute more. Add remaining ingredients and stir until cheese is melted. Toss fettuccini with sauce.