Now that school’s in session and folks are back to work, I’ve been thinking about solutions for fast, convenient meals that don’t sacrifice good nutrition. Recently, I took a look at building Easy to Assemble Meals perfect for whipping up some delicious quick dinners. This week, I’m all about pasta – another quick way to feed your family a healthy, tasty meal without falling prey to the fast food trap.
Kids love pasta, and so do grown-ups. After all, it’s easy to prepare, versatile, inexpensive and super satisfying — making it a perfect choice for busy weeknights. These days it’s easy to expand your horizons with an assortment of pasta made from a variety of whole grains such as spelt, whole wheat and even sprouted whole grains. We’re lucky these are so readily available. I remember a time when pasta meant either spaghetti or macaroni made strictly from white flour. Not so anymore! You’ll even find an abundance of gluten-free pasta made from brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa and corn.
When it comes to busy weeknight meals, you can’t beat a simple pasta dinner. Just remember to follow the package instructions for cooking unless, of course, you are following a recipe that says otherwise.
Here’s my favorite “pasta-in-a-pinch” recipe:
- Cook either fresh or dried pasta according to package directions.
- Add grilled or roasted veggies, either home-cooked or purchased from our Prepared Foods Department.
- Top with some protein such as beans, chopped cooked chicken or baked tofu.
- Top with a favorite pasta sauce or a splash of quality extra virgin olive oil and your choice of seasonings. Among my favorites are: sea salt, black pepper, chives, parsley and a light grating of Pecorino cheese.
Here’s a sampling of some of our pasta-for-dinner ideas:
- A good pasta meal is made great by the addition of colorful green, orange, red and yellow vegetables. Try some baby spinach or arugula, a variety of colorful bell peppers, some broccoli, grated carrots or beets. These recipes are ideal: Pasta with Mushrooms, Spinach and Mt. Tam Cheese, Penne and Broccoli with Zesty Gorgonzola Sauce and Pasta with Greens.
- Get truly Italian with this Sicilian classic Pasta Alla Norma, a delicious meal prepared with eggplant, basil, tomatoes, olives and ricotta salata cheese.
- Tomatoes and pasta make a happy couple, but you haven’t lived ‘til you’ve sampled the “ménage a trois” of pasta, tomatoes and cheese. Here are Capellini Pomodoro, Layered Pasta and Veggie Bake and Pasta Primavera.
- Pasta can also be completely dairy free (no cheese), yet totally satisfying and delicious. This Puttanesca Pasta is a great example.
- Keep it simple by serving Walnut Pesto Pasta, Spaghetti with Garlic and Olive Oil, Pasta Frittata, or Spaghetti with Pecorino and Black Pepper. Serve a fresh green salad alongside.
- Seafood lovers rejoice with Calamari Pasta and Shrimp Pasta.
- Pasta salads make great dinners, too. Here’s my post on Portable Pasta Salads with plenty of great ideas.
Many pasta meals are make-ahead perfect. Simply bake or prepare over the weekend and keep for a quick weeknight dinner or a take-along lunch.
Got a pasta-in-a-pinch recipe you’d like to share? Let me know.