Folks, you’re in luck. Today, Oct. 17, happens to be National Pasta Day — and I’m not making this up!
Pasta is delicious, it’s nutritious and it’s versatile. It is also one of the world’s favorite foods. Spaghetti, lasagna, rotini, tortellini — there are more than 600 known pasta shapes produced worldwide. Spaghetti is still the most popular pasta shape in the United States, followed by thin spaghetti, elbows, rotelle, penne and lasagna.
Did you know that a typical Italian person eats over 60 pounds of pasta per year? In comparison, Americans only eat around 20 pounds per person per year.
To celebrate National Pasta Day, enjoy a delightful dish of pasta in cooperation with other foods to form your main course. And if you can’t make it today, that’s okay. World Pasta Day on October 25 was established as an annual event at the first World Pasta Congress held in 1995 in Rome, Italy, to help promote pasta internationally as a nutritious, affordable food.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
1⁄2 lb. uncooked elbow macaroni
1⁄2 bar (10-oz.) mild cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 and 1⁄2 cups; divided)
3 Tbsps. butter or unsalted margarine
1⁄3 cup flour
1 and 1⁄2 cups low-fat milk
1 cup low-fat yogurt or sour cream
1⁄2 tsp. prepared mustard
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1⁄3 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs (optional)
Cook the macaroni in a large quantity of boiling, salted water, until the al dente stage. Drain and rinse with cold water. Coat a 2-quart ovenproof casserole dish with cooking spray. Place macaroni in casserole. Toss with 3⁄4 cup shredded cheese.
Preheat oven to 350˚
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour. Gradually whisk in milk and yogurt. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens, about 7 minutes. Season sauce with mustard, salt and pepper.
Pour sauce over macaroni and combine thoroughly. Top with remaining cheese and sprinkle with bread crumbs, if desired.
Bake, uncovered, for 55 to 65 minutes, or until bubbly and top is golden brown. Serve immediately.
Basil Chicken With Fusilli
1 package (8oz.) dried fusilli (corkscrew-shaped pasta)
2 tsps. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3 large tomatoes, skinned and chopped
2 medium boneless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsps. tomato paste
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Cook fusilli according to package directions. Drain and set aside, keeping warm.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute onion and garlic. Stir in remaining ingredients. Reduce heat to low and cover skillet. Simmer for about 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until mixture is heated through.
Toss with hot fusilli and serve immediately.
Linguine Stir-Fry With Green Beans and Garlic
Courtesy of the National Pasta Association
1 lb. linguine, spaghetti or thin spaghetti, uncooked
2 tsps. vegetable oil, divided
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into slivers
1 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut in half
2 red bell peppers, ribs and seeds removed, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced, or 11⁄2 tsps. garlic powder
1⁄4 cup teriyaki sauce
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
Prepare the pasta according to package directions; drain.
In a large nonstick wok or skillet, warm 1 teaspoon of the vegetable oil over high heat. Add the chicken and stir-fry until firm and opaque, about 4 minutes.
Remove the chicken and set it aside.
Add the second teaspoon of oil to the pan. Add green beans, reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for 7 minutes.
Uncover, add the red pepper, stir well and cook an additional 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Stir in the teriyaki sauce and the chicken broth.
Heat to a simmer and then toss with the chicken and pasta. Serve immediately.
Fettuccine With Chard, Raisins and Walnuts
1 bunch Swiss chard
3 Tbsps. unsalted butter
1 medium onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄4 cup golden raisins
2 Tbsps. freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 oz. dried fettuccine
3 oz. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1⁄4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. minced fresh chives
1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme or 1⁄2 tsp. dried, crushed
1 Tbsp. minced fresh oregano or 1⁄2 tsp. dried, crushed
dash crushed red pepper
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Rinse, drain and trim the chard. Pat completely dry. Slice stalks into ½-inch pieces; leaves into bite-sized pieces.
Heat butter in a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion, stirring constantly until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and chard leaves.
Stirring constantly, cook 1 to 2 minutes until chard is limp. Add raisins and lemon juice. Remove from heat.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the fettuccine and chard stalks to boiling water.
Cover and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until pasta has reached the al dente stage. Drain well.
Transfer to a large bowl. Mix with chard leaf-onion mixture, grated cheese, walnuts and herbs. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss thoroughly. Serve immediately.
Rivka Tal is a former Minnesotan who has lived in Jerusalem for the past 46 years. She is a food writer and translator. Email her at: talriv@gmail .com.