Pasta is a weekday salvation.  Here are 7 easy ways to enjoy it.

Pasta is a weekday salvation. Here are 7 easy ways to enjoy it.

Pasta is a weekday salvation. Here are 7 easy ways to enjoy it.

Few ingredients are as versatile, indulgent and easy to transform as pasta, a pantry staple that makes it to the table effortlessly.

Don’t let all those protein-centric diets sway you. The good qualities of pasta are endless. It is cheap. It’s fast. Pleases palates for generations. Best of all, it’s happy paired with any of a long list of ingredients, some of which you already have in your garden, pantry, or freezer. And with back-to-school season upon us, that kind of peace of mind is what every working parent needs.

It only takes minimal time and effort to integrate pasta into dinner. You’re guaranteed something cozy and delicious, and you’ll have leftovers for lunch the next day.

Spaghetti with fresh basil, cherry tomatoes, and red bell pepper is fresh and easy.
Pesto primavera keeps it light with asparagus, peas, and a hint of basil pesto, enhanced with fresh lemon juice and avocado.

The most important thing to remember is to keep it simple.

Stock your pantry with different types of pasta, then fill the fridge with easy ingredients that you can put in a pan. Keep jars of pesto, roasted peppers, anchovies, capers, olives, tomato puree, and chickpeas on hand. Grow fresh herbs in your garden. Always have lemons in the produce drawer and frozen peas in the freezer. Never run out of olive oil, a slice of Parmesan cheese and a head of garlic.

Here are 7 ideas for quick weeknight pasta dishes:

1. Fresh tomato. Combine sliced ​​fresh cherry tomatoes, sliced ​​red bell pepper, and minced garlic in a skillet with olive oil. Sauté, then toss with cooked spaghetti and top with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.

2. Puttanesca. Sauté a couple of teaspoons of finely chopped canned anchovies in olive oil with minced garlic and red pepper flakes, add mashed tomatoes and nice black olives. Mix with spaghetti. Don’t be afraid of anchovies. They will break down and add an irreplaceable depth of flavor to the dish.

3. Spring pesto. Toss your favorite pasta with store-bought or homemade pesto along with lightly sautéed chopped asparagus and peas. Cover with avocado and decorate with lemon.

4. Lemon. Lemon zest and juice is one of the most underrated pasta toppings, and really, nothing could be easier. To the cooked pasta, add a couple of teaspoons of lemon zest and the juice of one or two lemons. Drizzle with some good olive oil, some Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and voila.

5. Garlic, olive oil and parsley. This kid-friendly pasta has spaghetti tossed in a light sauce of olive oil and minced garlic, and topped with chopped Italian parsley. Simple and tasty as a side dish or on its own.

6. Vodka sauce. A classic sauce with crushed tomato, minced garlic and red pepper flakes combined with cream and a little vodka. It is traditionally served over penne. You won’t taste the vodka, but you’ll know there’s an additional ingredient because of the nice taste.

7. Be creative. Play with pasta shapes you’ve never tried before. And while these dishes are meatless, it’s easy enough to add some grilled or roasted chicken or shrimp, or even some prepared meatballs.

Traditionally served with penne, the vodka sauce features tomatoes, garlic, and red pepper flakes combined with cream and a splash of vodka.

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