by Julie Badger Jensen
If it “hasta be pasta” and you’re short on time, try these delicious entrees that provide meals in minutes. Many have a passion for Italian food. It has so much to offer — perfect pastas, pungent sauces, excellent creams and cheese, rustic breads, and versatile vegetables. The aroma of garlic and onion, rosemary and oregano simmering in olive oil is irresistible.
There are times when nothing beats a made-from-scratch tomato sauce bubbling on the stove all afternoon, but for those other times try these fast ideas. Todays bottled pasta sauces taste better than ever and opening them is as easy as opening a can of soup. Fresh pasta is also available and convenient. Try several to discover your favorite. For more flavor and freshness add a few simple ingredients to a bottled pasta sauce such as those in the Pasta Fasta Sauce which follows.
Chicken Tagliatelle is one to rave about with its rich and creamy sauce. Focaccia (foh-KAH-Chah) has become very popular and lends itself to all types of vegetables and herb toppings. It is wonderfully aromatic. The garlic bread is as easy as buttering bread and can be frozen ahead of time in foil.
Fall in love with Italian food all over again as you gather AROUND THE TABLE.
PASTA FASTA SAUCE
Basic for many pasta dishes
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 / 4 cup chopped onion
1 / 2 cup fresh or canned mushrooms, optional
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-oz.) jar pasta sauce
1 tomato, finely chopped
1 tsp. sugar
1 / 4 tsp. oregano
1 / 4 tsp. thyme
Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and saut until tender. Add mushrooms and heat about 2 minutes. Add garlic and saut for about 1 minute. Do not overcook, as garlic will become bitter. Add jar of pasta sauce, sugar, tomato, oregano and thyme. Cook over medium low heat for about 15 minutes to blend flavors.
SAUCE WITH MEATBALLS
A traditional favorite
1 / 2 cup bread crumbs
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 / 4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 / 4 cup chopped onion
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (28-oz.) jar spaghetti sauce or Pasta Fasta Sauce
1 pound spaghetti noodles, cooked and drained
Grated Parmesan cheese
Grated Mozzarella cheese
Combine bread, ground beef, egg, cheese, garlic, onion, salt and pepper; mix well with your hands. Divide mixture into 12 equal portions and roll between wet palms to form smooth meatballs. Place on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, or until meatballs are no longer pink inside.
Place spaghetti sauce and meatballs in a medium saucepan and simmer 10 minutes. Serve over pasta. Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese and Mozzarella cheese on individual servings. Serves 6.
Helps you get in those five
servings per day of fruit and vegetables
3 Tbs. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup green zucchini, finely sliced
1 cup yellow zucchini, thinly sliced
1 / 2 cup onion, thinly sliced
1 / 2 tsp. oregano
1 / 2 tsp. thyme
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon peel, finely grated
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups pasta, cooked and drained
1 cup pasta sauce or Pasta Fasta Sauce
Heat olive oil in heavy skillet. Add minced garlic and cook over medium heat for about 1 minute. Do not brown as garlic becomes bitter. Add vegetables and stir-fry until cooked through but still firm . . . about 5 minutes. Add oregano, thyme, lemon juice and peel. Stir together.
Layer noodles, then sauce, and top with vegetables.
SAUCE AND STUFFED SHELLS
Filled with Italian flavor
16 jumbo pasta shells, uncooked
1 (10-oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1 / 4 cup grated onion
1 (14-oz.) jar spaghetti sauce or Pasta Fasta Sauce
1 / 4 cup Parmesan cheese
Prepare pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, cook spinach according to package directions. Drain spinach thoroughly in colander by pressing out extra liquid with a large spoon; cool.
In a medium bowl, combine spinach with cottage cheese and onion. When pasta is done, drain. Rinse with cold water and drain again. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spoon cheese mixture into shells. Place shells in a lightly oiled 9×13-inch baking dish. Pour spaghetti sauce over shells. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until hot. Serves 4.
SAUCE WITH SHRIMP AND FETA CHEESE
Seafood lovers delight
1 lb. medium shrimp, cooked, peeled and deveined
1 (28-oz.) jar pasta sauce or Pasta Fasta Sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. basil
1 lb. linguine, cooked
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 / 4 cup chopped fresh parsley
In a medium saucepan, combine pasta sauce, lemon juice and basil; cook 3 minutes. Add shrimp and heat through. Serve over pasta. Sprinkle with feta cheese and parsley. Serves 6-8. (Can substitute Proscuito ham for shrimp).
Fast, fantastic and rich
6 oz. pasta
2 Tbs. olive oil or butter
8 oz. chicken tenders or chicken breast cut in strips
3 / 4 cup mushrooms, optional
2 green onions, chopped
1 Tbs. thyme, fresh if possible
1 / 2 Tbs. garlic powder
2 cups heavy cream
3 / 4 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated
1 / 2 tsp. salt
1 / 2 tsp. pepper
1 / 8 cup toasted pine nuts
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Heat olive oil or butter over medium heat. Sear chicken about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, green onions and thyme. Saut until onions are tender. Add garlic, cream and cheese. Simmer about 30 minutes stirring occasionally until chicken is cooked and tender. Serve over pasta. Top with pine nuts.
Dimpled, puffy bread
Rustic and aromatic
1 1 / 2 pkgs. (1 1 / 2 Tbs.) active dry yeast
1 1 / 2 Tbs. sugar
3 1 / 3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. salt
5 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves
In a small bowl, combine the yeast, 1 / 2 cup warm water, and the sugar. Stir, and let stand for 10 minutes to dissolve the yeast.
Combine the flour, 1 1 / 2 tsp. of the salt, 2 Tbs. of the olive oil, the yeast mixture, and 1 / 2 cup warm water. Stir together and blend well. Slowly add up to 1 / 2 cup more warm water, as needed, to make a rather soft, slightly sticky dough.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured board and knead for 5 minutes. Then place it in a large oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and put it in a warm spot. Let it rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
Take the dough out of the bowl, fold it onto itself a few times, and then stretch it to fill and oiled 8 x 12-inch baking pan or form into a round loaf. Brush 1 Tbs. of the olive oil on the top, cover with a towel, and let the dough rise for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, separate the onion slices and toss them with the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil. Gently scatter the onions and the rosemary on top of the Focaccia, and sprinkle with the remaining 1 1 / 2 tsp. salt. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until nicely browned.
Transfer the Focaccia from the pan to a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 6-8.
ITALIAN GARLIC BREAD
Made the easy way
1 loaf French bread
1 / 2 pkg. Good Seasons Italian dressing mix
1 / 2 cup butter, softened
Cut bread into about 1″ slices. Combine dressing mix and butter. Spread on both sides of bread. Reassemble into loaf. Wrap in foil. Bake at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes or until hot.
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