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Treat yourself to some pasta

Aditya Oberai, Wikimedia Commons

A plate of pasta is a welcome sight to place on any dinner table.


Pasta is something I use quite often for meals, and I am fortunate I don’t have any dietary restrictions; I can eat regular pasta. There are many different types of pasta, and I am not knocking any of them, although personally, I do not care for whole wheat or buckwheat pastas.

When I was a teen, I thought I would show off for a boyfriend my family invited for dinner. I cooked spaghetti, and somewhere I heard that you were supposed to throw it on the ceiling to check for doneness. I did just that, and it stuck to the ceiling. Good thing I only flung one strand of pasta. Judging by the weird look I received, I highly doubt my culinary feat was very impressive, but at least the spaghetti tasted good.

Here are some pasta recipes for you to try, and throwing food on the ceiling is not part of any directions.

Shrimp and scallop lasagna

Adapted from a Paula Deen recipe.

12 lasagna noodles

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 small onion, finely chopped

3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

3 tablespoons flour

2 1/2 cups half-and-half

3/4 cup grated Romano cheese

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound sea scallops, cut in half or quartered

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375. Coat an aluminum pan, about 13-by-10-inches, with cooking spray..

2. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook lasagna noodles until they are just done, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.

3. Melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet and cook the onion over low heat until very soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute more.

4. Over medium-low heat, stir in the flour with a whisk, then gradually add the half-and-half, allowing the sauce to thicken slightly before adding more. When the sauce has thickened to about the consistency of whipping cream, add the cheese and stir well. Add the salt and pepper and stir again.

5. Add the scallops and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, then add the shrimp and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or just until the shrimp turn pink. Turn off the heat.

6. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the sauce from the skillet into the prepared pan. Cover the bottom of the pan with 4 noodles, placing them side by side. Spoon 1/3 of the sauce over the noodles, distributing half of the seafood evenly. Layer 4 more noodles, 1/3 of the sauce, and remaining seafood. Cover with the last 4 noodles and the remaining sauce. (For the top layer, do not spoon any seafood on top of the noodles; just use the sauce.) Tuck in any edges of the noodles so they are all coated with sauce. Top with the Parmesan.

7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, uncovered, until bubbly. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before slicing. Makes about 20 servings.

Chicken Parmesan pasta in a pot

See the note I added to this recipe.

2 to 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

Small amount olive oil

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 medium onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

16 ounces dried pasta, such as rigatoni or penne

1 jar (24-oz.) of your favorite marinara sauce

Water to fill empty marinara sauce jar

1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Salt and pepper, to taste

Additional dried Italian seasoning, if desired

Fresh parsley or basil, minced, for garnish

1. In a large pot or skillet, add a drizzle of olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add chicken, season with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Cook about 5 minutes, until chicken is mostly cooked through. Remove to a plate.

2. Add onion and garlic to the pot and cook about 2 to 3 minutes, until soft. Pour in marinara sauce, fill up empty sauce jar with water and add to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

3. Add chicken and pasta, stir, then cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until pasta is cooked to your liking. Stir in Parmesan cheese and 1/4 cup of the mozzarella cheese.

4. Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese on top of the dish and cook another 2 to 3 minutes, until cheese is melted and gooey.

5. Sprinkle with additional Italian seasoning if desired, and garnish with parsley or basil. Makes 6 servings.

Note: I am not sure why, but I am usually leery of adding dry pasta and extra water to a recipe, so the pasta will cook already mixed in with the other ingredients. So, I have only tried this by eliminating the jar of water, and precooking the pasta by itself, as I usually would. I have, however, had success cooking lasagna by layering ingredients with dry noodles, so go with which method you are most comfortable with.

Asian noodle salad

This recipe calls for at least 8 hours for the noodles to marinate.

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup sesame seed oil

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/4 can salted peanuts (can coarsely chop, if desired)

2 green onions, tops included, chopped (you will need more if the onions are very skinny)

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

1 pound fideo noodles (or angel hair pasta, broken into bits)

1. Cook fideo noodles in salted water 3 to 4 minutes or less. Do not allow noodles to become overdone. When done, rinse immediately in cold water, to stop the cooking process.

2. In small bowl, mix soy sauce, sesame seed oil, honey and chili flakes; blend well. Pour mixture over the well-drained noodles. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours.

3. Before serving, add the chopped cilantro, salted peanuts, chopped green onions and toasted sesame seeds to the salad; mix well and serve.

Noodle kugel

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus extra for buttering the pan

1 cup raisins

Grated zest and strained juice of 1 orange

1 package (12-oz.) wide egg noodles

6 large eggs

2 cups cottage cheese

2 cups sour cream

2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt

1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

2. Combine the raisins and orange juice and set aside to soak. Cook the noodles according to the package directions.

3. Whisk together the orange zest, eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, milk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt in a medium-size bowl. Add the plumped raisins and up to 1 tablespoon of any remaining juice.

4. Drain the noodles and return them to the pot. Add the butter in pieces and toss until melted. Add the cottage cheese mixture and stir gently until well combined. Transfer the noodles to the prepared pan.

5. Bake the kugel until a bit bubbly around the edges, well set, and well browned, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Broil it for 1 or 2 minutes if you like a very crunchy top. Makes 10 servings.


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