If you want a fast, easy, filling supper, pasta is the way to go. I’m not talkin’ mac-n-cheese here (that deserves its own post). You don’t have to slave over elaborate sauces to get elaborate flavors, either. There are many pasta companies which make flavored pastas, some of which are quite good and come in an astonishing array of flavors. Don’t (just) think of Italian food when you think of pasta: think Asia, Spain, Mexico, India, Tunisia, Cuba, The Caribbean. And that’s just a smattering of the offerings from one artisanal pasta company. That company is Pappardelle’s which offers a wide selection online, but is only available at Farmer’s Market’s otherwise. When I can snag some of this locally, I do, making a point of trying something different each time.
That fast easy meal I was referring to is to cook flavored noodles (flat noodles only take a few minutes), then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. It’s fast, easy and filling. If I’m trying out a new flavored pasta for the first time, this is the way I make it because I want to know what the flavor of the pasta is, how strongly flavored it is, so that I can make the right choices when serving it with a sauce or tossed with veggies. If you want to enhance or complement the flavors, Boyajian makes flavored oils (which I also use for popcorn).
In the course of taste-testing with only simple dressings, you may be inspired to create something more elaborate with things like Goan Curry Angel Hair pasta, Lemon Ginger Fettuccine, Lime Cilantro Linguine, Orange Szechuan Linguine, Porcini Mushroom Linguine, Spanish Saffron Trenette, Spicy Thai Linguine, Sweet Potato Pappardelle, Tunisian Harissa Fettuccine, Lavender Fettuccine, Chipotle Black Bean Tagliatelle, or Orzo in Asian, Cuban, Southwestern and Thai flavors, not to mention fruit and chocolate pastas for even more adventurous eaters. 😉 They also offer three flavors of lasagna noodles: Peppercorn Trio, Roasted Red Pepper, and Spinach Garlic. (I sometimes use the red pepper flavor in my lasagna, and would love to try the Peppercorn lasagna noodles.)
Pappardelle isn’t the only one making flavored pastas: other brands are available in most supermarkets, albeit with fewer and less adventurous flavors. Al Dente is the brand I most often see. I’ve tried more of their flavored pastas than Pappardelle, mostly because they are more readily available. I can’t go down the aisle without looking to see which flavors are there and grabbing a couple of bags. Pasta is one of my fall-back foods when plans change and I don’t have time to cook or just don’t feel like doing much in the kitchen. Noodles, a light drizzle of olive oil (with or without flavoring), a bit of Parmesan cheese and I’m there. 😀
If I’ve got fresh mushrooms (portobella, crimini, button), I may saute them up and toss with the pasta. One night I had a couple of left-over portobellas and a couple of tomatoes, so I sauteed the mushrooms in a little bit of garlic oil, and then just cut the tomatoes in chunks over the pan and cooked with a bit of basil until the tomatoes dissolved, then served it over two bowls of Al Dente’s Three Peppercorn Fettucine. De-lish! Tomatoes and mushrooms are both good choices if you don’t want to serve the pasta “nekkid”. 😉 They’ll both cook to bits in no time and with water for the pasta needing to boil, it won’t add anything to the total cooking time.
Some of the flavored pastas I’ve had are so good by themselves that I’m reluctant to do something “saucy” with them. 😉 But on the other hand, some flavors are so good they set me dreaming of what I can do with them. 😀