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Keeping your ingredient list simple is often the most effective way to prepare pasta sauces. A simple sauce highlights only one or two different flavors, enabling you to enjoy the texture of the pasta. While basic tomato sauce is a classic choice, sauces featuring olive oil as the primary ingredient also lend themselves to a simple but flavorful preparation. Use an extra-virgin olive oil for the best flavor. Grated Parmesan cheese adds a distinct flavor and creamy texture when mixed through the hot pasta. Sprinkling some chili flakes on the dish adds some spice. You can also add sautéed shrimp or diced chicken to make the dish more substantial.

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Pasta Cooking Tips:

Use a tall, deep cooking pot rather than a wide, shallow one. Remembering that the pasta will swell, generously fill up the pot with about 4 quarts of water.

Season the water with salt before you add the pasta. It’s the best way to bring out the pasta flavor.

Do not add olive oil to the cooking water. If you’re trying to keep the pasta from clumping as it cooks, make sure you have plenty of water in the pot and stir frequently, especially early in the cooking process. Don’t add it to drained pasta, either… it will only make your carefully prepared sauce slide right off the pasta.

There’s no need to rinse your cooked pasta with water. The starch helps the sauce bind to the pasta. Pasta for a salad can be quickly cooled by spreading out the pasta on a baking pan.

Before draining, save some of the pasta water to add to the sauce. Add enough to help loosen the sauce.

To reheat cooked pasta, place pasta in a colander and pour hot or boiling water over it or immerse it in a pot of boiling water for 15 seconds. Cooked pasta will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.

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Shrimp Scampi over Whole-Grain Spaghetti

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 12 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking, warm the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook shrimp, turning once, until cooked through, about 2 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.

Add garlic, crushed red pepper, wine and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the skillet and simmer 1 minute. Stir in shrimp and heat.

Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water. Toss pasta with the shrimp mixture, lemon juice and parsley. Add reserved cooking water 1 tablespoon at a time to moisten.

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Linguine with Pancetta and Peas

6 servings.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz linguine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup of fresh or frozen peas, thawed
  • Salt and ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, grated
  • 3 slices pancetta or bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

In a large skillet, heat butter and oil over medium heat; add garlic, stir occasionally until they begin to soften, 1 to 2 minutes. Add peas; season with salt and pepper and cook 2 minutes.

Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta water.

Drain the pasta and add to the pan with peas. Toss well and add some reserved pasta water, a little at a time to coat the pasta. Add the Pecorino Romano. Toss with the pancetta or bacon and garnish with black pepper.

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Thin Spaghetti with Sausage and Spring Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 8 oz thin spaghetti
  • 8 oz link of Italian pork sausage
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 2 cups mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup asparagus, sliced into 2″ lengths
  • 1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest

Directions

Cook pasta al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water and drain pasta.

Mix together the parmesan cheese, mint, basil, parsley and lemon zest. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook sausage until brown. Remove from pan and drain on a paper towel. Cut into thin slices.

Add the olive oil to the pan and heat over medium. Add the mushrooms, peas and garlic and cook 3-4 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring.

Return the sausage to the pan and add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally until everything is warmed through.

Add the cooked pasta and sprinkle with the reserved pasta cooking water.

Serve in individual pasta bowls. Drizzle each lightly with olive oil and top with a tablespoon of the herb-cheese mixture.

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Pasta with Grilled Chicken and Artichokes

6 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 12 oz farfalle (bow-tie) pasta
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus extras for the grill
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 14 oz can artichoke hearts, rinsed or a package of frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted.
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano, plus extra for serving.

Directions

Light an outdoor grill or heat a grill pan. Oil the grill or grill pan.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper, to taste. Grill the chicken until just about cooked through, about 6 to 8 minutes per side.

Let the chicken rest and, then, slice into 1/4-inch thin slices.

Cook pasta al dente in a large pot of salted boiling water. Reserve about 2/3 cup of the cooking water before draining.

Cut the artichoke hearts into smaller wedges.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute.

Add the artichoke hearts and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes.

Add the pasta, chicken and some of the reserved pasta water to the pan. Toss and cook an additional minute.

Add the fresh parsley and Romano cheese and serve immediately with more grated cheese on the side.

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Spring Vegetable Pasta Salad

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Pasta

  • 12 ounces cavatappi pasta, cooked al dente
  • 4 ounces asparagus, blanched and thinly sliced on the bias
  • One 10 oz package frozen peas, defrosted
  • One 12 oz jar roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced into thin strips
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • Parmigiano- Reggiano, for garnish

Directions

For the dressing:

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, Dijon mustard, honey, garlic, lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the pasta:

Mix the pasta with the asparagus, peas, roasted peppers, tomatoes, fennel, shallots and basil.

Pour the dressing over the salad, tossing to coat.

Let the salad rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to absorb the flavors before serving.

When ready to serve, toss and shave cheese over the top.

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