Taking Pasta Up a Notch

Pasta is one of those comfort foods that is also easy and quick. Some boiling water and about 20 minutes is all it takes. And while that’s happening, you can cook some ground meat, top it with a good tomato sauce and voila! You have a great dinner that everyone will remember. Our children always cheered when they came home from school and smelled the ingredients for spaghetti and meat sauce. So let’s take it up a notch by enhancing the base ingredient, the pasta. Here’s how.

First pay attention to your water. As you are bringing it to a boil, add salt until it tastes like salt water. Salt brings out the nuttiness in pasta. Without proper amounts of salt, you cannot get everything that pasta promises. I missed that for many years, but what a difference it makes. This is your most important “notch up”, the step most of us miss.

Stir the pasta occasionally while it is cooking. Keeps it from sticking together. When it is ready, drain the water off and add crushed garlic (a lot) that has been sautéed in olive oil, butter, or both (I like both). Pour it over the pasta. Squeeze some lemon juice over that or grate some lemon zest and combine. You now have pasta that can be a meal unto itself. When I was a starving undergrad, this was often my dinner. Cheap and delicious. The next time, the same ingredients except with rice. Ditto.

The last step - and this is optional - pour your meat sauce over the pasta and let it absorb into the pasta for say a minute before serving. Top with shaved parmesan, chopped green onion and fresh parsley. Notched up pasta with meat sauce. It’s not just dinner. It’s celebration!