pasta

Orecchiette with lamb sausage and peas

Lately, there hasn't been many pasta dinners on the menu at our household. As much as I like to eat pasta and as much as I like to cook pasta, I've been trying to lead a lower-carb lifestyle over the last six months or so. However, I do believe in moderation so when the mood struck for a satisfying dinner on a Monday night, it was time to call on a weeknight warrior ingredient to save the day — pasta.

Orecchiette with lamb sausage and peas

Spaghetti with shrimp, lemon and arugula

When it comes to quick weeknight meals that take advantage of fresh, seasonal products or high-quality pantry ingredients, and prepared in a non-fussy manner, the Italians have it down. An olive-oil based pasta dish seems to be one of the quickest and easiest meals to thrown together. There are many types of "sauce" or condimento, as the Italians would say, that take as much time to cook as it takes for the pasta to cook. Also, there's very little advanced slicing and dicing of ingredients that needs to happen prior to the actual cooking. You just get your pasta water on, a saute pan heated up, and you're good to go!

Spaghetti with shrimp, lemon and arugula

Baked rigatoni with sausage and tomato-roasted red pepper sauce

Sausage and peppers - a classic combo, right? However, roasted peppers are not on the list of preferred vegetables for my kids. Now, I'm not a fan of "hiding" vegetables in kid-friendly foods, but, this sauce is a common preparation, so I don't feel like I'm "cheating."

Baked rigatoni with sausage and tomato-roasted red pepper sauce

Baked pasta with sausage, eggplant and ricotta

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Who doesn't love a good ol' baked pasta dish? Pasta combined with sauce, covered with cheese and baked until it's golden-brown and bubbly is a crowd-pleaser. It's a versatile dish. You can add meat or not. You can vegetables or not. However, you can have a delicious baked pasta dish or a pedestrian baked pasta dish that's not much better than throwing a frozen dinner, depending on how you put together your ingredients. It can turn out watery and flavorless if you don't take the time to season your ingredients and bring out the maximum amount of flavor. This is not to say that it will take a long time. You can quickly put together a delicious sauce without having to resort to that jar in your cupboard. Do I have a jar of sauce in my cupboard? Of course I do! But I have many more cans of whole, peeled tomatoes than I do jarred pasta sauce. You can make a quick sauce with that can of tomatoes that will taste much better than the jar and it won't take much time at all.

Baked pasta with sausage, eggplant and ricotta

Pasta with sausage, zucchini and tomatoes

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This is a pasta dish I used to make all the time. A fixture in the weekly rotation. It sort of lost its spot in the rotation when the kids showed up, however. Those picky kiddo-types just don't like to eat stuff that's all mixed together with bits of this & that, green stuff, red stuff...you get the picture. I still made it on occasion but the kids would usually just eat the pasta and maybe some sausage. But they're a bit older and have been a bit more adventurous lately so I gave it another shot. Also, I went with whole grain pasta, so if they just ate mostly pasta, that would be alright.

Pasta with sausage, zucchini and tomatoes

Pasta all'Amatriciana

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Pasta dishes are so well-suited for weeknight cooking. There are so many delicious versions of a "sauce" you can make that take the same amount of time (or less) that it takes for the water to boil and the pasta to cook. Pasta all'Amatriciana is one of my favorite pasta dishes and it's based on a classic. The richness of the pork combined with the intensity of the tomato brings huge flavor that doesn't require a long time to develop. 

Pasta all'Amatriciana