Pasta Perfect

Pasta is always in season. In summer, it plays host to grilled meats and plentiful fresh vegetables with light sauces. Cool temperatures call for heartier fare with a spirit-lifting effect. Level out the downside of winter by teaming one of 50 available pasta shapes with aromatic sauces featuring olive oil, cream, canned tomatoes, herbs, wine and Italian cheeses. Like a good friend, pasta is considerate of budgets and tight schedules and always there in a pinch. Welcome family and friends to the table with a winter pasta meal that’s wholesome and comforting—a perfect fit for the season.

“Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.’”
Genesis 1:29 (NIV)

Chicken and Pasta with Pesto

This simple dish owes its visual appeal to a roller coaster of colorful pasta ribbons. Artisanal pasta tinted with vegetable pigments can be located at culinary shops, farmers markets or online. Any long, flat pasta, such as pappardelle, tagliatelle, fettuccine or linguine, is well-suited to the olive oil and pesto sauce that separates the strands and boldly flavors each bite. Garlic-infused chicken marinates while the pasta cooks, making the most of your moments in the kitchen and reinforcing the pesto’s garlicky theme.

Chicken and Pasta with Pesto

Long, flat pasta is well suited to the olive oil and pesto sauce that boldly flavors each bite.

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  • 6 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced ½ inch thick across the grain
  • 12 oz dried mother-in-law’s tongue pasta or plain pappardelle, tagliatelle or fettuccine
  • 2 tbsp prepared pesto
  • Flat-leaf parsley (optional)
  • Parmesan cheese shavings (optional)
  • For marinade, in a 1-quart dish combine ¼ cup of the olive oil, white wine vinegar, garlic, and salt. Add chicken, stirring until thoroughly coated. Cover and marinate in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions until tender but still firm to the bite; drain and set aside.
  • Remove chicken from marinade, discarding marinade. In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook just until no longer pink. Remove from heat. Transfer chicken to platter and keep warm, reserving oil in skillet. Stir remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and the pesto into skillet. Arrange pasta and chicken on plates; drizzle with pesto mixture. If desired, garnish with parsley and Parmesan cheese shavings.

Baked Penne with Tomatoes and Mozzarella

Most Italian restaurants wisely offer at least one baked pasta dish on their menu knowing that, for little cost, they will create a positive, lasting impression. Experience the same reaction in your kitchen as you pull one bubbling casserole after another from the oven on a blustery night. Count on affirmative gestures of delight when tasters discover random pools of melted fresh mozzarella mingled throughout meat-sauced noodles. Because this dish can be prepared the day before, it’s destined to become a favorite of busy cooks as well those they serve.

Baked Penne with Tomatoes and Mozzarella

Pools of melted fresh mozzarella mingle throughout meat-sauced noodles in this baked pasta dish.

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  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ pound ground beef
  • ¼ pound Italian sausage
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 4 tsp chopped fresh oregano or 1½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 12 oz dried penne or mostaccioli
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • ¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • In a large skillet heat oil. Add onion and garlic and cook over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add ground beef and sausage; cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is brown. In a food processor or blender, puree whole peeled tomatoes; add to meat in skillet. Add diced tomatoes, oregano, salt and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, about 15 minutes or until slightly thickened.
  • Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large saucepan or Dutch oven according to package directions until tender but firm to the bite; drain. Return pasta to saucepan. Add meat sauce, mozzarella chunks and Parmesan cheese. Transfer pasta mixture to 6 greased 16-ounce individual baking dishes (or one greased 13×9×2-inch baking dish). Top with shredded mozzarella. Bake in a preheated 400°F oven for 20 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is melted.

Spicy Pasta with Shrimp and Mussels

In most piquant dishes, pasta plays the mild-mannered guy in the white hat, while chiles and spices strategically set fire to the dish. Not so here. Bold pasta pumped with red chiles challenges unassuming shrimp and mussels in a saucy showdown. Now that you know what you’re getting into, those of you with temperate preferences might consider trading more subdued sun-dried tomato pasta or plain fettuccine for all or part of the hot stuff. Whatever pasta you use, count on fresh ginger and cilantro to add their lively touches to this engaging dish.

Spicy Fettuccine with Shrimp and Mussels

Bold pasta pumped with red chiles challenges unassuming shrimp and mussels in a saucy showdown.

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  • 12 oz dried Thai curry fettuccine, red chili fettuccine or sun-dried tomato fettuccine*
  • 1 pound fresh shrimp in shells (16–20)
  • 12 fresh mussels
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp peeled, julienned fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 4 large Roma tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 green onions, bias-sliced into 2-inch lengths
  • In a large saucepan or Dutch oven cook fettuccine according to package directions until tender but still firm to the bite; drain and set aside. Meanwhile, remove shells and veins from shrimp, leaving tails intact, if desired. (Discard tail shells when eating.) Scrub mussels under running water, discarding any that are partially open or broken. In a medium saucepan, combine wine and mussels; cover and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until mussels open. (Discard any mussels that do not open.) Remove mussels with a slotted spoon. Reserve cooking liquid by slowly pouring the clear liquid out of the saucepan, leaving the sandy residue in the bottom.
  • In the pot in which the pasta was cooked, heat olive oil. Cook shrimp, ginger and garlic over medium heat for 4 minutes, turning shrimp after 2 minutes. Add reserved mussel cooking liquid, tomatoes and salt. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in cooked pasta, mussels and cilantro; heat through, tossing gently. Serve immediately, garnished with green onions.
  • *Note: If using nonspicy pasta, add ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper with the ginger and garlic.

Bow-tie pasta with prosciutto and sun-dried tomatoes

Prosciutto and garlic, two of Italy’s beloved flavors, form the base of this luscious entrée. From the moment the two ingredients hit olive oil in the hot skillet until several hours after dinner, their tantalizing aroma in the kitchen testifies to the good food you’ve created. A simple butter and cream sauce comes together in about 8 minutes, making this a suitable supper for impromptu get-togethers or busy winter weeknights. Introduce the unexpected, like we did, by experimenting with unique pasta shapes and colors.

Bow-Tie Pasta with Prosciutto and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

A simple butter and cream sauce comes together in about 8 minutes, making this a suitable supper for busy weeknights.

Expand Recipe
  • 1 pound dried striped or plain farfalle (bow-tie pasta)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 8 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into ½-inch strips
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 (3.5-ounce) package julienne-cut sun-dried tomatoes
  • ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • In a large saucepan or Dutch oven cook pasta according to package directions until tender but still firm to the bite; drain and set aside. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Add prosciutto and garlic; cook 1 to 2 minutes or until prosciutto is no longer pink and edges become slightly crisp. Set aside.
  • In a large skillet melt butter over medium-low heat. Add cream; simmer 1 to 2 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken, stirring frequently. Set aside 2 tablespoons fried prosciutto for garnish; add remaining prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, salt, nutmeg and pepper to cream mixture. Stir in pasta and toss lightly to coat. Serve immediately, garnished with reserved prosciutto and sliced fresh basil.
“O Lord, how many are your works! In wisdom You have made them all; the earth is full of Your possessions. There is the sea, great and broad, in which are swarms without number, animals both small and great.’”
Psalms 104:24-25 (NASB)

Pair pasta with sauce according to this general rule: the heavier the sauce, the sturdier the pasta. For example, feature light marinara sauces over delicate strands of linguine or spaghettini and heavier cream sauces on ¼-inch-wide fettuccine or pointy penne. Match rough-textured ragùs with spiraled fusilli or hollow rigatoni that provide support and crevices for meaty sauce. To cook dried pasta, add 1 pound of pasta to 4 quarts of salted boiling water until it’s al dente or “to the tooth”—meaning it is tender but still offers slight resistance. Stir as soon as you add the pasta and once or twice during cooking. Drain immediately, leaving enough water on the pasta to keep it slippery. Drain shapes or short tubes more thoroughly by shaking the colander several times to release water trapped in the grooves. Consider these recommendations, trust your instincts and serve with confidence!

“When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God.”
Deuteronomy 8:10 (NASB)
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