Quarantine cooking: Dress up that pantry pasta with delicious sauces

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After taking stock of your pantry, you may find you've got a few too many boxes of dry pasta. (Or, at least that's what we're guessing given the many empty shelves of pasta we've been seeing at area grocery stores.) Luckily, there are endless possibilities for ways to dress up those trusty noodles beyond a jar of marina sauce.

Here are a few of our favorite easy weeknight dinners (if that's even a thing anymore ...) that will make you glad you've got those extra boxes.

SPINACH PASTA SALAD

(From Betty Crocker)

I got this recipe in my first-ever vegetarian cookbook when I was 16 and its popular with the family and a potluck favorite.

— Meggie Baker, Eagle calendar clerk.

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups (6 ounces) uncooked bow-tie (farfalle) pasta 

1 small tomato, cut into fourths

1/2 cup basil pesto

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

4 cups bite-size pieces spinach leaves

2 medium carrots, thinly sliced (1 cup)

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

One 14-ounce can quartered artichokes hearts, drained, rinsed

DIRECTIONS:

Cook and drain pasta as directed on package. Rinse with cold water; drain.

While pasta is cooking, place tomato, pesto, salt and pepper in food processor or blender. Cover; process 30 seconds.

Toss pasta, pesto mixture and remaining ingredients.

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SPAGHETTI ALLA CARBONARA

This has been my go-to pasta recipe ever since I received Rachael Ray's second cookbook. The page it's on is food-stained and has many of my notes including: "Excellent! Wouldn't change a thing!" and "Start pasta way before sauteing pancetta." — good advice since the recipe cooks up really fast. So-o-o-o-o good!

— Margaret Button, associate features editor

INGREDIENTS:

Salt

1 pound spaghetti (or any variety of pasta)

Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons (2 turns around the pan)

1/3 pound pancetta, chopped

4 or 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, a few pinches, crushed in palm of hand

1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken stock

2 large egg yolks

3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more, for sprinkling

A handful fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped

A few grinds black pepper

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DIRECTIONS:

Place a large pot of water on the stove to boil. When water is rolling, add salt and pasta and cook to al dente, about 8 minutes, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water. While pasta cooks, heat large skillet over moderate heat. Saute pancetta in a drizzle of oil until it browns, 3 to 5 minutes. Add extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, and crushed pepper flake. Saute garlic 2 minutes. Add wine or stock to the pan and reduce liquid by half, 2 minutes.

Beat together egg yolks, cheese, and while whisking vigorously, stir in a ladle of the boiling pasta water. Beat in parsley and pepper and set aside.

Drain pasta. Add pasta to pan with sauce. Toss pasta with pancetta, then add egg mixture and toss 1 minute, then remove from heat. Continue to toss until sauce is absorbed by and thickly coating the pasta. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and serve with extra cheese, for passing.

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SHRIMP WITH PENNE

(Adapted from Ree Drummond)

This is a family favorite that I often make with frozen shrimp for a quick dinner. The smell of the wine cooking with the onions and garlic is just the right thing for a Wednesday night meal to make pasta go from boring to perfection.

— Lindsey Hollenbaugh, managing editor of features

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 pounds penne pasta

1 pound shrimp

3 tablespoon of butter

1 whole onion

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup of white wine

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce 

1 cup heavy cream

Fresh parsley - to taste

Fresh basil - to taste

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Cook the penne pasta until al dente. Peel, devein and rinse 1 pound of extra-large shrimp. Heat about 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil in a skillet. Add shrimp and cook for a couple of minutes until just opaque.

Do not overcook shrimp. Remove from heat and let cool. When cool to touch, place on chopping board and cut into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

Finely dice one small onion. Mince two cloves of garlic.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add garlic and onion and saute, stirring occasionally.

When the onion is translucent, add the white wine (you can use chicken broth instead).

Add your 8-ounce can of plain tomato sauce. Stir well until combined. Add 1 cup of heavy cream. Continue stirring. Turn heat to low and let simmer for a few minutes.

Chop the parsley and basil (remember the herbs are to taste)

Add herbs and shrimp to tomato cream sauce. Stir and add salt and pepper to taste. Add penne pasta and stir.

QUICK SAUCES:

If you're looking for some just a little different to dress your pasta, try one of these easy sauces and add any vegetables or proteins you've got on hand to use up your refrigerator leftovers.

Garlic Alfredo sauce: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 3 cloves minced garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Whisk in 2 tablespoons flour until lightly browned.

Gradually whisk in 1 cup milk and 1/2 cup half-and-half, and cook, whisking constantly until slightly thickened. Stir in 2 ounces cream cheese, cubed, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese until melted. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add sauce to favorite pasta.

Maple cream sauce: Melt 4 tablespoons butter in large saute pan over medium heat. Add the 1 shallot, diced, and then cook until translucent. Add 2 cups of cream, and allow to simmer for one minute. Add 2 tablespoons maple syrup, stirring to combine; add 1teaspoon thyme, salt and pepper to taste, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add to your favorite ravioli; butternut squash is great with these flavors.

Creamy tomato sauce: Once you cook your favorite pasta and drain, stir in 3 ounces cream cheese and 1 1/2 cups of your favorite pasta sauce. Stir to combine and heat through.


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