Now that we have covered some of the more time-consuming aspects of pasta, like making pasta from scratch, let's move on to more familiar territory. Have you ever noticed how big the pasta aisle at the super market is? It's because pasta is a quick meal that can be tailored to fit any tastes, no matter how sophisticated or how picky. Dry pasta can be used to make hot or cold meals. It stores well and doesn't lose its flavor. There are even some excellent jarred sauces that make preparation even quicker. The following dishes use dry pasta and some prepackaged ingredients for the sake of expediency.
Baked pasta dishes are great for a crowd or for leftovers the next day. Dinner that can also feed everyone lunch the next day? Perfect! This version of baked ziti uses store-bought pesto, but this can easily be made fresh if you prefer.
1 package Hot Italian Sausages, casings removed
4 cloves Garlic, diced
1 large White Onion, diced
1/2 of a package Pesto, the kind found in the refrigerated section works well here
1 28 ounce can Tomatoes, diced and peeled
1 package Frozen Chopped Spinach, thawed and drained
8 ounces Mozzarella cheese diced into cubes
1 cup Parmesan Cheese, Grated
3 cups cooked Ziti or Penne Pasta
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 by 13 inch Pyrex pan.
Sauté sausage, garlic and onions until slightly browned. Add Pesto and diced tomatoes. Allow this mixture to simmer on low for 30 to 40 minutes.
In a bowl combine, spinach, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Add the Ziti to the spinach mixture. Combine Ziti and tomato mixture. Mix thoroughly and pour into greased pan. Cover with foil and bake Ziti mixture for 30-40 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the top is slightly browned.
The spinach and sausage in this dish make it extremely tasty, and the cheese gives it a satisfying creaminess.
An Easier Pasta Dish
For an even easier dish cook the Ziti or Penne and let it cool slightly. To this add your choice of chopped olives, chopped pepperoni, cubed mozzarella and chopped roasted red peppers (these can be found jarred in the pickle section of your supermarket). Dress this with Italian dressing. Allow to sit 30 minutes before serving. This is a great dish to serve on hot days or as a side dish. It can be modified a million different ways by adding fresh produce or different kinds of cheese.
A good place to find easy pasta dishes is on the box of dry pasta itself. Depending on the type of noodle you will find hundreds of recipes this way.
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