Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Pasta Olympics

I love watching the Olympics!  One of my favorite things about the opening ceremony is the parade of nations.  I like to see all the different countries of the world, what they are wearing, and how proud they all look to be there.  It reminds me that the world is a much bigger place than I see on a day to day basis.  It's so easy to get caught up in our own lives, that we forget what an extraordinarily vast world we live in.  So, today's post is a nod to the Olympics.  It's about pasta dressed up in different ways to represent different nationalities.


Lasagna can be so labor intensive and take all day to make.  This version gives you all the same flavors but, it's much simpler and quicker.


1 lb Rotini pasta (curly pasta mimics ends of lasagna noodles)
1 lb ground beef
1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup ricotta cheese (you can add more if you want it cheesier)
shredded mozarella cheese
grated parmesan cheese
fresh basil, if desired

Cook pasta.  Meanwhile, brown ground beef.  Drain.  Add sauce.  Let simmer until pasta is ready.  Add in ricotta cheese and stir to combine.  Add in pasta.  Stir well.  Serve topped with shredded mozarella and grated parmesan.  Garnish with torn, fresh basil, if desired.


This recipe is versatile because you can use any meat or shrimp.  It's a great use for left overs.


2 cups cubed cooked meat (or you can use shrimp*)
1 lb Angel Hair pasta, cooked and drained
1 package frozen stir fry vegetables, thawed (you can thaw in microwave or put in fridge the day before)
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 TBS sesame oil
2 TBS canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBS fresh grated ginger (peel your ginger root and keep it in the freezer.  It keeps a lot longer!)
Sliced green onions

In a large skillet, heat canola oil on medium-high heat.  Add garlic and ginger.  Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes.  Careful not to burn garlic!  Add thawed vegetables and cooked cubed meat.  *If using raw Shrimp add them with the garlic and ginger and let cook until pink.  Then, add vegetables and proceed.
Add soy sauce and sesame oil.  Then, add cooked pasta and stir well to combine everything.  Garnish with sliced green onions.

CAJUN COUNTRY (Ok, it's not technically a nation.  But, Cajun Country is very much it's own world!)

This recipe is close to a Jambalaya, but it uses pasta instead of rice.  It's a definite crowd-pleaser.  You can use all sausage (1 lb) or both chicken and sausage, which is the recipe below.


1/2 lb smoked sausage, sliced
2 boneless chicken breasts, cubed (seasoned with a little cajun seasoning or salt/pepper)
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
a few dashes of worcestershire sauce
a dash or two of hot sauce (depends how spicy you want it - you can leave it out if you want)
12 oz Spaghetti, broken into thirds
4 cups chicken broth

In a large dutch oven (big pot with a lid), brown sausage on both sides.  Remove and set aside.  Brown seasoned chicken in sausage drippings.  Remove and set aside.  Saute onion, celery, bell pepper ("the trinity" of cajun cooking) for a few minutes.  Then add garlic, worcestershire and hot sauce.  Return sausage and chicken to pot.  Add broth and bring to a boil.  Once it comes to a rolling boil, add broken spaghetti.  Stir very well (or it will clump up and be gross).  Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring twice.  It's done when pasta is tender and has absorbed almost all of the liquid.


So, in honor of the Olympics, try one of these international pasta dishes.  You could even bake some biscuits in the shape of the Olympic Rings, but that might be taking it a bit too far.

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