Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Buon Appetito: Pasta to the rescue for dinner tonight!

Your family has launched the first-round assault of the “What’s for dinner?” interrogation and you have no clue what you’re serving tonight. Deploy this strategy: assign the interrogators to kitchen duty and tell them you’re having “Pasta Rescuitto” questa sera. This tactic will serve to divert them while you seek out pasta, and canned tomatoes or prepared sauce, frozen meatballs or shrimp, cheese, nuts and a few spicy veggies for a topping. Announce to the troops that EDT (estimated dinner time) is in 30 minutes sharp when you will be tabling a delightful pasta result. Now, envision yourself as a creative, svelte-like “Pasta La Vista Baby” and give yourself a healthy pat on the back for dodging the takeout option.

Whether you’re preparing a swanky feast or dash n’ dine meal, pasta is a convenient and nutritious entrée everyone loves. Even carb-counting diners can rest assured, pasta is a “good” slow-release and low glycemic index carb which some nutritionists think may help us live longer and improve our physical and cognitive performance. It may also play a key role in preventing chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease and certain cancers. In addition, pasta contains plenty of protein, iron, B-vitamins; riboflavin, niacin and thiamine, is fortified with folic acid and a good source of fibre. Many varieties of wholesome pasta, from whole wheat to spinach to sun dried tomatoe, are now available in the pasta or organic aisles at grocery and bulk food stores.

On a proud Canadian flag-waving note, our prairie farmers grow Canada Western Amber Durum wheat—the main ingredient for the best pasta in the world! Italy even has a law stating that only durum wheat flour can be used in the production of pasta in their country. Laws like that make our spaghetti western farmers very happy and explain why Canada is the world’s largest exporter of durum, holding 50 to 60 per cent of the world’s market share in any given year.

Tip your chef hat to a Canadian grain farmer and try these delicious pasta recipes. Buon appetito!

Fettucine Gorgonzola

1 pkg fettucine (for 4-6 servings)

¼ cup butter

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

¼ cup white wine

1 ¼ cups half and half cream

½ cup Parmesan cheese

¼ cup Gorgonzola, crumbled*

¼ cup toasted pine nuts

Tip: Toast nuts for 3-4 minutes at 325F. Watch them—they burn easily!

Have all ingredients measured and prepared. Cook fettucine until firm to the bite. Meanwhile, heat butter in large skillet then add the garlic and sauté until light brown. Add wine and simmer for two minutes.* Add cream and cook on medium heat until cream begins to bubble, about 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, then Parmesan and Gorgonzola cheese. Toss sauce with cooked fettucine and place in pasta bowls. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.

*Option: Omit Gorgonzola. Add one 14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered, with the wine.

Penne with Smoked Salmon and Green Onions

375 g Penne (for 4 servings)

1 tbsp butter

4 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

1 jar (16 oz/435 ml) Classico Alfredo di Capri Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Sauce

4 oz sliced smoked salmon, cut into strips

Chopped parsley or chives, optional

Cook penne to package directions. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add green onions and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in pasta sauce and simmer (do not boil), stirring occasionally, about 2-3 minutes. Toss penne with sauce and serve in pasta bowls with salmon and chives, if using, on top.

Cannelloni with Ricotta Cheese, Spinach and Currants

Serves 6-8. This recipe is a bit of work but well worth the effort! It can be made ahead, refrigerated and cooked the next day.

1 250 g box oven-ready cannelloni tubes

3 tbsp currants

1 pkg frozen chopped spinach

1 tbsp olive oil

¼ c onions

4 tbsp chopped proscuitto (optional)

2 garlic cloves

1 c ricotta cheese

¾ grated parmesan cheese (for filling)

¼ c grated parmesan cheese (for topping)

1/3 toasted pine nuts

1 large egg, beaten

1 435 ml jar Classico Sun-dried Tomato & Alfredo Sauce OR Classico Four Cheese Alfredo Sauce

1/3 cup milk

1 c shredded Mozzarella cheese

Soak currants in warm water for 20 min. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile cook spinach in a microwave dish (covered) for 7 min. Drain well and set aside. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over med-high heat. Add onions and minced proscuitto and cook until brown. Stir in garlic. Cook for just 30 sec. Stir in spinach and cook for 2 min. Let this mixture cool and then blend in drained currants, ricotta cheese, ¾ c grated parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in egg. Mix well. Pour just enough sauce to cover the bottom of a 13x9” lasagna baking dish. Add 1/3 cup milk to jar and shake well and reserve. Stuff oven-ready cannelloni tubes (use the end of a dinner spoon to push in the filling) and lay the tubes in the dish side-by-side. Pour remaining sauce over top of tubes. You’ll use about 2/3 of the box of tubes. If necessary, to ensure all the pasta is covered with sauce, add a bit of water or milk to the rest of the sauce in to jar, shake well to mix and pour this over all the tubes. Top with 1 c shredded mozzarella. Cover with foil. Bake at 350F covered for 30 min at. Remove foil and sprinkle with ¼ c grated Parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered for another 15 min until golden. Let rest for 5 min before serving.

No comments: