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Sherrie Norris Lovin Spoonful Cooking Column: Pass the Pasta, Please!

National Noodle Day was October 6. National Pasta Day was October 17,  but all is not lost. World Pasta Day is October 25, and October — from start to finish — is National Pasta Month. So, if we really need an excuse to eat and celebrate pasta, we’re covered.

 We all know that pasta is among the top foods consumed by most American families. While we might think it all evolved in Italy, history  tell us that pasta was likely first introduced in central Asia and eventually brought to Europe — maybe even by the famous explorer, Marco Polo. Why knows? Regardless of its origin, we’re glad it found its way here, right? 

Spaghetti may be considered the most favored pasta of all, but there are so many other “pastabilities” — the list and ways to prepare and serve pasta is as limited as one’s imagination. One source indicates that there are more than 600 pasta shapes and sizes around the world!

Fettuccine, rotini, macaroni, farfalle (bow-tie), capellini (angel hair), and penne are just a few of the more familiar types of pasta in our area and consumed heartily at dining tables at least once a week.

And while we’re on the subject, please mark your calendars for an upcoming  spaghetti dinner/fundraiser for a special little fellow and his family. Ezekial McKinney was recently diagnosed with acute leukemia and has been at Brenner’s Children’s Hospital going through a lot of testing to determine the exact type. Hosted by friends and family, the dinner is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 4 beginning at 4:30 p.m. at Willowdale Baptist Church in Vilas. Please plan to come out and show your support for the McKinneys. 

In the meantime, here a few ideas for your next family meal at home.

Pasta Primavera         

½ lb. thin spaghetti

1-2 Tbsp. olive oil

½  clove garlic, minced

½  cup green beans

¾  cup. carrots, sliced thin

¼  cup peas

¾  cup broccoli, chopped

2 cups ripe tomatoes, chopped

½  tsp. parsley

½  tsp. basil

1/8 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

¼  tsp. thyme

½  tsp. oregano

Pinch of red pepper flakes

¼  cup grated Parmesan cheese

To prepare sauce, heat oil in a large skillet; add minced garlic and cook. Add beans, carrots, peas, and broccoli and stir until crispy tender for about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and seasonings; simmer for a minute or two until tomatoes are tender, but still somewhat firm.

Meanwhile, add about 1 qt. water to a large pot and bring to a rolling boil. Add spaghetti; stir to prevent pasta from clumping together. Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes until al dente (somewhat firm). Drain well in a colander and put into a large bowl.

Add sauce to spaghetti and add the Parmesan cheese. Toss and serve immediately. 

Chicken and Rotini Dish

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (cooked)

1 (12 oz.) box tri-color Rotini

1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 cup broccoli florets, finely chopped

1 med. onion, chopped

1 lg. clove garlic, chopped

¼  cup- plus extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp. seasoned rice wine vinegar

2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

½  cup fresh basil, chopped

2 sprigs fresh rosemary, stripped and chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta with a little olive oil. Chop chicken breasts in bite-size pieces. Add tomatoes and broccoli with drained pasta. Saute garlic and onion, but do not brown. Add olive oil and vinegar to pan then add  basil and rosemary. Pour this over the chicken, pasta and vegetable mix. Mix well and adjust salt, pepper and Parmesan to taste.

Served at room temperature or chilled.

 Spinach and Feta Pasta Salad

1 lb. spiral or small shell pasta

½  lb. feta, crumbled

2 (10 oz.) pkg. frozen spinach

1 can black olives, drained

2 med. tomatoes, diced

1 tbsp. finely chopped mint

½  cup olive oil

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 tsp. finely chopped oregano

Cook pasta according to package directions. Steam spinach  for just a few minutes in a covered saucepan. (Do not add any extra water besides what comes out of package with it.) Remove from heat after spinach wilts.

Toss spinach with the pasta; top with tomatoes and olives.

Combine remaining ingredients (except feta) for dressing and pour over the salad. Top with the crumbled feta cheese and serve.

Simple and Delicious Pasta salad

1 (16 oz.) pkg. rigatoni pasta, cooked

1 (16 oz.) bottle Italian dressing

1 (6 oz.) can sliced black olives, drained

½  cup chopped red onion

½ cup chopped green pepper

Other chopped vegetables of preference (squash, zucchini, carrots, etc.

Pepperoni or salami, small pieces, if desired

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain. Mix all ingredients in large bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving