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Jun 21, 2012 10:15 AM

Pasta ideas?

So, my sister is gone for the summer and left me with half-bags of random pasta. Spaghetti, Macaroni(?), Penne and Tagliatelle. I also inherited some cheddar cheese and grated parmigiano/parmesan. I should have a large bottle of bolognese sauce.

Any ideas on what I can make? Haven't seen any recipes that appeal to me as yet. And it might seem weird, but I prefer a dish that looks great, just a bit striking, or perhaps some tips on how to make regular pasta look more interesting :)

I'm open to buying ingredients. I don't have any suitable meat at the moment so I'm probably going to get some ground beef.

Thanks in advance for any ideas :)

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  1. Taglilatelle is going to work nicely with a white sauce, carbonara or alfredo and you have bolognese sauce on hand. The Penne will hold a red sauce well, and your bolognese sauce would work there too. Macaroni make me want to get out of the Italian penninsula and move toward Northern Europe.


    Cook al dente (drain and keep it warm)
    Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a large pan and briefly warm some chopped garlic then add the well drained pasta, some grated Provolone or Parmesan, and chopped fresh basil.
    Place a ring of Ricotta on the serving plate and position the pasta in the center of the ring (or you could just put a serving of Ricotta on the plate and top it with the Penne) topped with chopped sundried tomatoes.
    Finish with more grated cheese.


    Cooked and drained.
    Add copious amounts of crushed garlic to heated olive oil. Cook over medium/low heat only about 1 minute and don't let it brown. Add some finely chopped red onion, chopped fresh basil, along with the Tagliatelle.
    Plate and top with your choice of shell fish (clams, oysters, mussels, scallops) and/or medium sized shrimp cooked in butter and a little white wine.
    Squeeze of lemon over top.


    I'm thinking something with dill and, maybe, some caraway. Perhaps a casserole with cooked macaroni, some cream (milk), garlic, mushrooms, and cheese. Perhaps some sausage in there somewhere. A casserole, to be sure.

    Remember that, in an Italian cultural setting, the pasta is the featured element, not the sauce. So whatever you do, don't overload your pasta dishes with sauce.

    8 Replies
    1. re: todao

      My favorite recipe using Tagliatelle is a nice thick Ragu (I use ground turkey).

      For the Spaghetti, a white clam sauce would be my first choice; or perhaps a tuna sauce with arugula & Kalamata olives.

      Macaroni? A nice baked mac & cheese with a variety of cheeses. Maybe even some broccoli & diced ham thrown in for good measure. Baked till there's a nice crispy crust.

      For Penne I usually go Mediterranean. My favorite dish is one involving kale, red onion, Kalamata Olives, & feta cheese.

      1. re: Bacardi1

        Thanks! Haven't thought about turkey in pasta. Your mention of diced ham in the baked macaroni reminds me of my aunt's baked mac with ham... heavenly!

        1. re: nano404

          Here's my own recipe for my "Turkey Ragu", as we call it.

          Bacardi1 Pasta with Ragu Sauce
          (adapted from The Classic Pasta Cookbook by Giuliano Hazan)

          Approx. 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
          Approx. 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
          1 small or half a medium/large yellow onion, peeled & chopped
          1 carrot, peeled & finely diced
          1 stalk celery, peeled & finely diced
          1 package (around a pound or so) ground turkey
          1 cup dry white or dry red wine (Pinot Grigio, Chabilis, Red Burgundy, Chianti, & Merlot all work well)
          ½ cup milk, half-&-half, or cream
          A few dashes of grated nutmeg
          Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
          Approx. 1 tablespoon dried oregano (or 3 tablespoons chopped fresh) or dried Italian seasoning.
          Approx. ½ cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
          One 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, undrained
          1 pound cooked pasta (wide pastas like Tagliatelle & Pappardelle, or short ones like Rigatoni or Fusilli work well with this sauce), tossed with 2 tablespoons of butter for serving.

          Freshly grated Parmesan &/or Romano cheese for serving if desired.

          In a saucepan deep enough to hold all sauce ingredients, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in the olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Saute onion, carrot, & celery until just starting to soften, & add ground turkey, breaking it up as it cooks. Add the wine & continue cooking for a few minutes. Add the milk & the nutmeg & continue cooking until most of the milk has evaporated. Add the tomatoes, & using kitchen scissors or a wooden spoon, cut them up into roughly bite-size pieces in the pan. Add parsley, oregano, & crushed red pepper flakes if using. Turn the heat down to low & simmer until sauce has reached your desired thickness – some like it thinner; some like it thicker. Taste for seasoning & serve over your pasta of choice (or toss with the hot pasta before serving) with a sprinkling of grated cheese.

          1. re: nano404

            And here's my recipe for a 4-cheese Mac & Cheese. It's terrific plain, but is also good with the addition of some blanched broccoli florets & diced ham (I try to convince myself that the broccoli makes it healthier - lol!).

            (adapted from 365 Ways To Cook Vegetarian)

            1 pound elbow macaroni
            6 tablespoons unsalted butter
            1/4 cup flour
            2-1/2 cups milk
            Approx. a half a pound to ¾ of a pound of a combination of grated or crumbled cheeses (blue/gorgonzola, cheddar, gouda – smoked or regular - gruyere, etc., etc. – pretty much any crumbly cheese that suits your fancy. I frequently make this recipe with all sorts of odds & ends of grateable cheeses I have on hand.)
            Approx. 4-6 ounces grated Mozzarella cheese
            Approx. 4-6 ounces grated Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago cheese
            Approx. 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
            Freshly ground black pepper to taste
            1 egg, lightly beaten
            Dried seasoned breadcrumbs (optional)
            Hot paprika, or a combination of regular paprika & a little ground cayenne pepper

            Preheat oven to 350. In a large pasta pot, cook macaroni until tender but still firm, according to package directions. Drain well & return to pasta pot, tossing gently with 2 tablespoons butter. Set aside.

            In a medium saucepan, melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour & cook, whisking, 1-2 minutes. Whisk in milk & bring “just” to a boil, still whisking, until sauce is thick & smooth, 3-5 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in cheeses - EXCEPT for Mozzarella & Parmesan - until they begin to melt, about 2-3 minutes. Season with nutmeg & black pepper to taste.

            Add cheese sauce to cooked pasta. Add & gently stir in beaten egg, Mozzarella, & Parmesan cheeses. Transfer to a lightly oiled 9” x 13" or similar-size baking dish. Sprinkle with hot paprika or regular paprika & cayenne pepper & a little dry seasoned breadcrumbs if desired.

            Bake 35-40 minutes, or until casserole is bubbling & top is nice & brown.

            1. re: Bacardi1

              Those recipes sound great, thanks a lot. I'll probably try them soon!

        2. re: todao

          Thanks for the suggestions! I noticed that the Tagliatelle recipe that you gave lacks sauce or any cheese. Is that intentional or was it just so obvious? I've never cooked pasta in that way before so it's new to me, for me it's always a basic pasta + sauce + cheese (most times) + meat.

          1. re: nano404

            the olive oil, butter, and wine make the sauce

          2. re: todao

            Silly question. Made a few mistakes but it came out OK. I'll definitely try it again.

          3. IF you mix all those pasta shapes together ... search for recipes that use "pasta mista".
            Pasta mista is "mixed pasta". Translate the recipes (as needed) as you search.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Cheese Boy

              And to think that I joked to my sister about mixing them. I won't cook it tonight but I'll look into cooking it in the near future! Thanks!

            2. Pasta with a Thai Peanut sauce is good.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Antilope

                Haven't even heard of it before. Thanks for the suggestion, I'll check it out!

                1. re: nano404

                  Here's the recipe I always use. It's an adaptation from an old Sunset magazine recipe from over 20 years ago.

                  Thai Style Peanut Dipping Sauce

                  4 tbsp peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
                  2 tbsp salad oil
                  4 tbsp soy sauce
                  4 tbsp granulated sugar
                  4 tbsp distilled vinegar
                  1 tsp toasted sesame oil
                  2 tsp Sriracha hot chili sauce (more or less to taste)
                  1/8 tsp ground coriander

                  Mix well with whisk.

                  Serve over hot or cold noodles, pasta or on pot stickers or as a spring roll dipping sauce.

              2. I like to mix clouds of thick whole milk yogurt with garlic and herbs to use as a sauce for penne and spaghetti. Sometimes a dusting of cinnamon and allspice on top along with a very generous handful of parmesan will be all I need. Other times I will mix in ground lamb with mint or beef with dill, which is especially good when it clings to the penne. Either pasta is also great dressed with pesto of your choice (e.g. basil, nettle, arugula, even cilantro).

                Macaroni salad with shredded chicken, diced apples, cheddar cheese, celery, mayonnaise and vinegar is perfect picnic food and offers a lot of textural and colorful contrast. Similiar salads made with ham, chorizo, red and yellow bell peppers and herbs are even more striking. The Egyptian dish koshary, with its layers of macaroni, caramelized onions, lentils and delicately spiced tomato sauce might also appeal to you.

                1 Reply
                1. re: JungMann

                  Those sound great! Thanks! Never thought about allspice in pasta, I have both the regular allspice and the ground one. Should be interesting to taste.

                2. Tagliatelle, I always make classic carbonara or alfredo sauce.
                  Spaghetti, either go classic with meat balls or olive oil and pesto.
                  Penne, casserole with marinara topped with lots of part skim mozzarella, or with pesto, spring vegetables (snow peas, asparagus, onions) and olive oil.
                  Macaroni, home-made with lots of cheese or in hawaiian style macaroni salad with kewpie brand mayo and benito.