Pasta dish favorite for all seasons

February 20, 1991|By Jimmy Schmidt | Jimmy Schmidt,Knight-Ridder Newspapers

Pasta is a favorite for many reasons.

L It is a wonderful dish to enjoy by yourself or with a crowd.

It comes in a variety of sizes, shapes and flavors, so preparation possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

It's a carbohydrate, so it can fuel your body for activities ranging from athletics to snow removal (so plan on pasta for a good dinner when winter storm warnings are flashing across your TV screen.)

It's easy to cook and these tips will make it perfect:

* In a large heavy saucepan or pot, bring to a violent boil one gallon of water for every pound of pasta.

* Add two tablespoons of salt per gallon of water only after it has come to a boil. The salt adds seasoning while raising the water's boiling point for a hotter cooking temperature.

* Add all the pasta at once. Cover the pot only to help the water return to a boil, then cook uncovered at a steady, not violent, boil.

* Stir occasionally; use a wooden fork for long pasta and a wooden spoon for short pasta. Add oil to the water when `D cooking large pasta pieces such as lasagna noodles.

* Taste the pasta while cooking until it is al dente (firm but nohard to the bite). It is better to have the pasta slightly underdone since it will continue to cook in the sauce.

* Remove the pasta quickly with a skimmer or drain into a colander, and mix immediately with your sauce, butter or olive oil.

Finely grated cheese should be added off the heat at the last second to prevent the pasta from lumping together. The pasta's heat will melt the cheese and continue cooking the noodles.

Penne with Cheese

1/2 pound penne noodles (macaroni can substitute)

1 cup fresh snipped chives or scallion greens

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup grated fontinella cheese (mozzarella can substitute)

3 eggs, beaten

1 3/4 cups half and half cream


3/4 teaspoon coarsely grated black pepper

3/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 cup grated Romano cheese

1/2 cup of bread crumbs

4 tablespoons unsalted butter (for dish and topping)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large pot bring two quarts or more water to a boil. Add one tablespoon salt to the water. Add the penne, cooking until al dente, about eight minutes. Drain and rinse with warm water.

Combine the chives, Parmesan, cheddar and fontinella (or mozzarella) cheeses in a large bowl. Add the penne, mixing to combine. Transfer to a buttered baking dish. In a bowl combine the eggs, half and half, one-half teaspoon salt, pepper and paprika. Pour evenly over the penne. In another small bowl, combine the Romano cheese and bread crumbs. Sprinkle over the top of the penne. Dot bread crumbs with the remaining

butter. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately. Makes eight side servings.

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