Thursday, September 15, 2011


I just know I'm forgetting some vastly important pasta dishes. What have I forgotten??

Again, a lot of editing remains. I'm pooped. I spent most of today typing with one hand as I nursed Kaylee with the other. Now she is napping on the floor. Again. This time looks like it will be a real nap, and not one of those ten-minute fake-outs.

What's left? I got some good suggestions for the Soups and Stews chapter. And I need to write a Thanksgiving chapter. I think it was my father who mentioned a group that showed up one year at the home of a family who needed food assistance, armed with all the makings of a Thanksgiving dinner, only to be turned away because the family didn't know what the hell to do with a turkey. I would be scared if someone showed up at my door with a giant, unfamiliar carcass, too. Anyway, at this point I don't know the origin of the story, and it may be one of those gems that has been passed along a hundred times. But it still has a grain of truth. Before you can cook a meal, you have to learn how to do it. And it's easy to take cooking skills for granted if they were handed to you as a child.


Pasta is very high in refined carbs, so it is a good idea to minimize the pasta in your diet, and eat whole grain pasta when you do eat a pasta meal.

One pound of dry pasta feeds about four adults.

Pasta is cooked by dropping it into boiling water. Follow the directions on the package for best results, and always cook pasta for the minimum recommended time. This will make the pasta “al dente”, or just tender enough to have a little bite to it.

For tomato sauce (marinara sauce) recipes see recipes ###.

Simple Buttered Pasta

You wouldn’t want to eat buttered pasta all by itself, but this is delicious and reasonably healthful if you top it with a big pile of sautéed vegetables (#), or with beans of any sort heated in some olive oil with some garlic or Italian spices #.

½ pound of uncooked pasta of any sort
2 tbsp butter or olive oil
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
(optional) Italian spices

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, and return it to the hot pot. Add about a tablespoon of butter for each ¼ pound of pasta, and stir it until it melts; or use olive oil. Then stir in the grated cheese. Add salt, pepper, and optional spices.


There are many ways to make mac-n-cheese from scratch. This one is cooked on the stove top and uses egg.

Mac-n-cheese can easily be made into a complete meal by adding cooked meats or vegetables. Cheddar is traditional in mac-n-cheese, but other kinds of cheese can make the dish more exciting. If you use a hard cheese, such as parmesan, you will want to combine it with a softer “melting” cheese so that it mixes in well.
You can make this recipe with any shape of pasta.

½ pound uncooked pasta of any sort
4 tbsp butter
2 eggs
¾ cup milk
½ tsp salt
8 ounces grated cheese (about two cups)
(optional) chopped meats, such as cooked chicken, ham, or pepperoni
(optional) vegetables, such as frozen peas, chopped carrot, chopped broccoli, chopped onion

Cook the pasta al dente. If you want to add optional vegetables, you can use pre-cooked veggies, or you can add raw or frozen veggies to the boiling pasta water partway through cooking the pasta.

Drain the cooked pasta and optional veggies, and return them to the pot. Set the pot on medium heat, and allow the butter to melt into the hot pasta. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and salt. Pour this mixture into the pasta and add the grated cheese. Stir continuously for three minutes, or until the mac-n-cheese is creamy. Add the optional meats.

For a fun variant of this recipe that kids will like, use parmesan and mozzarella cheese, add pepperoni, and top with drained canned tomato. Call it “Pizza Mac”.

Fettuccini Alfredo

Be sure to eat this in moderation, balanced with a lot of vegetables, because it is very fattening. This recipe makes enough for two adults.

½ lb fettuccini noodles or other pasta
2 tbsp butter
1 cup cream
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Nutmeg to taste

While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a pan. Add the cream, turn up the heat a little, and boil, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes. This will thicken the sauce. Stir in the cheese. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste. Then add the cooked and drained pasta to the pan, turning with tongs or a spoon it until it is coated with the sauce. Serve at once.

Quick One-Pot Pasta Meal

If you want to throw together a healthful meal for yourself in a hurry and with a minimum of mess, this does the trick. Because the vegetables are boiled, they are not as flavorful as sautéed or baked vegetables.

For each person:

¼ lb uncooked pasta; or about a cup
2 cups washed and chopped greens, such as beet greens or kale, or 1 cup diced summer squash, carrot, peas, or other vegetable, or 1 cup cooked or frozen beans
1 cup of chopped tomato. If tomatoes aren’t in season, use about ¾ cup of tomato sauce.
1 tbsp oil or butter, preferably olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
(optional) spices such as French Four-Spice, Lemon Pepper, or Italian
(optional) grated parmesan cheese

Boil the pasta. When the pasta has three minutes left to cook, add the vegetables. Resume timing when the pot returns to a boil. When one minute remains, add the greens. (If the greens are particularly delicate, such as spinach, add them when the time is up, immediately before draining the water.) Then drain the pasta and veggies through a colander.

Put a tablespoon of butter or oil in the pan, and put the pasta back in. Add the tomato or tomato sauce and the spices. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, if you desire.

Pasta with Beans

Topping pasta with white beans is a nice alternative to the usual marinara sauce. This is a variation of what the Italians call “pasta e fagioli”, which is traditionally a meatless dish.

For each person:

¼ lb cooked pasta
1 cup cooked, frozen, or canned white beans.
2 tbsp water or chicken stock # or vegetable stock
1 small onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp butter or oil, preferably olive oil
(optional) cooked Italian sausage, or chopped ham, or other cooked meat
Salt and pepper to taste
(optional) Italian spices
(optional) 1 cup washed and chopped greens

While the pasta cooks, heat the butter or oil over medium heat, and use it to sauté the onion. When the onion is translucent, add the garlic. Stir the garlic for a couple of minutes over the heat, and then add the beans, the water or stock, the optional greens, and the optional meat. Cook until everything is heated through. If you would like, use a potato masher to crush the beans a bit. Add the spices to taste, and serve over the pasta.

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