Serve Easy, Tasty Pasta Dishes for Early Fall Suppers

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AJ’s Pasta with Creamy Tomato Sauce and Sausage is a scrumptious dish to serve with a salad and crusty bread. Prepare the sauce with a good quality Italian, chicken or turkey sausage, or try ground beef, turkey or meatballs. Top with a generous amount of grated Parmesan cheese for an early fall supper everyone in the family will enjoy. PHOTO BY ANN CIPPERLY

By ANN CIPPERLY

After such a long hot summer, it was nice to turn the calendar over to September. I have noticed a few leaves with a golden hint in the yard the past few days. Soon it will be time to bring out the autumn décor and gather pumpkins. Fall is my favorite season of the year, and I am already looking over recipes for cooler weather. Pasta dishes are a good way to get started and only need a salad and crusty bread to complete the menu.

With rising food costs, pasta dishes are an economical way to stretch meals. Most pasta dishes can be prepared ahead and make enough for a couple of meals, depending on the size of your family. Pasta is also popular with children. With busy after-school activities, children will be ready for a good, hearty supper.

We recently enjoyed a delicious Pasta with Creamy Tomato Sauce and Sausage that our daughter-in-law AJ served with a green salad, garlic French bread and fresh peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream. We are so thankful that our son Robert and AJ moved last year from West Palm Beach to Smith Lake in North Alabama. It was such a long way to West Palm Beach that we didn’t get to see them much.

AJ still travels around the country for her work, but when she is home, she enjoys cooking. She has started baking most of the bread they eat in her large, new kitchen with a chef’s stove. The top burners are gas, while the oven is electric. They also have a small kitchen on the lower level, which is nice for entertaining on the patio overlooking the lake in a restful setting.

When they had company visit from Florida that didn’t eat beef or pork, AJ made the pasta dish with chicken sausage from Whole Foods. While she generally uses a good quality Italian sausage, the dish was delectable with the chicken sausage as well. Sometimes AJ adds red pepper flakes to the sauce to give it a kick of spice.

The sausage gives the sauce a tantalizing flavor, but I am going to try it with ground beef and ground turkey since I think it will also be good in the creamy tomato sauce. Meatballs would also be tasty. You can make it with a mild Italian sausage, but if you think that is too spicy for your children, then try it with ground beef or meatballs. The sauce is also good by itself with a hearty sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Among the other pasta dishes is Carol Pridgen’s Quick and Easy Baked Spaghetti with Cheese Topping. This will go together quickly after work or children’s after-school activities. It freezes well, so plan to bake an extra one for the freezer to serve on a hectic day.

Chicken and pasta are good paired together in a creamy sauce. Look over those recipes to see which one appeals to your family. They are all good, so clip and save them all.

When making pasta dishes, I often use whole wheat pasta and sometimes brown rice pasta. The brown rice version is available at local markets with organic foods instead of the pasta aisle. My family can’t tell the difference between whole wheat and brown rice pasta from regular pastas, and they are healthier.

A variety of fresh pastas are also offered at local grocery stores. They cook faster than the dried pastas. It doesn’t take long to make fresh pasta, which would be a good weekend project to let the children help with. Before I had a pasta machine, I rolled the pasta dough out and cut it in strips. Be sure to salt the cooking water well.

The jarred pasta sauces have improved over the years, and there are some good ones for assembling spaghetti quickly on a busy night. Some brands offer a variety without added sugar. To enhance the flavor and give more of a homemade taste, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil and pour in the jarred sauce.

Look over recipes and prepare a couple of pasta dishes for your family this coming week. Add a green or fruit salad and crusty bread. If you only have sandwich bread, remove crust and cut into slices. Brush olive oil or melted butter on slices and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Bake at 400 degrees for a few minutes until golden brown. If you are in a hurry, place bread under the broiler until lightly brown. Children especially enjoy this cheesy toast with pasta.

AJ’s Pasta with Creamy Tomato Sauce and Sausage

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 or 1 ½ lbs. Italian sausage (can use chicken or turkey sausage or ground beef, turkey or meatballs)

Two 28-oz. cans crushed or whole tomatoes, blended until smooth

1 Tbsp. dried basil or about 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

1 Tbsp. dried oregano or about 1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped

1 tsp. red chili flakes, optional

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese and more for serving

1 lb. rigatoni pasta or pasta of choice, cooked according to instructions on package

Add olive oil to a large pot and sauté onions over medium heat until tender, then add garlic and sausage. Cook until sausage begins to brown.

Add tomatoes, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes if using, salt and pepper. Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce heat .Stir in heavy cream and 1 cup Parmesan cheese. Reduce heat to medium-low and let it simmer.

Add drained pasta to the sauce and simmer a few minutes longer, if desired. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Quick and Easy Baked Spaghetti with Cheese Topping

Carol Pridgen

1½ lb. ground beef.

1 small onion, diced

1 jar (any kind) spaghetti sauce

8-oz. box angel hair pasta

3-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened

8-oz. container sour cream

1½ cups sharp cheddar cheese

Cook ground beef with onion until done. Mix with spaghetti sauce. Prepare angel hair pasta as directed on box; drain. Place pasta in a 9 by 13-inch dish. Spread meat sauce over noodles.

Mix cream cheese and sour cream together. Spread over meat sauce. Top with cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes until bubbly. Freezes well.

Grandmother’s Mac-n-Cheese

Kammi Waggoner

1 pkg. elbow macaroni, cooked as instructed on pkg.

2 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. flour

2 cups milk

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. pepper

8 oz. (2 cups) shredded block sharp cheddar cheese, divided

Prepare pasta. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk, and cook, whisking constantly, 5 minutes, or unto thickened.

Remove from heat. Stir in salt and pepper, and 1 cup shredded cheese and cooked pasta. Spoon mixture into greased 2-qt. baking dish and top with remaining 1 cup cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Creamy Chicken Spaghetti

Bobby Samford

3 cooked chicken breasts (can use 3 cans cooked chicken)

2 Tbsp. butter

1 tsp. minced garlic

1 medium yellow onion (diced)

1 pkg. spaghetti noodles (or angel hair)

1 can Rotel

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can cream of chicken soup

2 cups sour cream

16 oz. shredded cheddar (or Colby jack)

¼ cup Parmesan cheese (experiment with your favorite cheeses)

1 tsp. garlic salt

Pinch of pepper

Panko breadcrumbs for topping, optional

Prepare pasta per instructions on package. While pasta is cooking, melt butter in pan and add onion and garlic. Cook approximately 5 minutes or until onions are translucent.

In large bowl, combine all ingredients (except topping), including onion mixture and cooked spaghetti (drained); fold in chicken.

Put entire mixture in lasagna pan or any 11 x 14-inch dish. We use panko breadcrumbs on top and cook uncovered at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until breadcrumbs are browned on top.

This recipe makes a lot of spaghetti and should easily feed 8 to 10.

Shrimp with Spinach Pasta

Margaret Whittelsey

6 oz. spinach pasta

2 lbs. shrimp, peeled and deveined

¾ cup butter or margarine

10¾ oz. can cream of mushroom soup

1 cup sour cream

1 cup mayonnaise

½ tsp. Dijon mustard

4 Tbsp. dry sherry

¾ cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Place pasta in a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish.

In a large pan, sauté shrimp in butter until pink; place shrimp over pasta.

Combine soup, sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard and sherry. Pour sauce over shrimp.

Sprinkle with Cheddar cheese; bake uncovered in preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes.

Can substitute baked chicken for shrimp. Can be prepared ahead; freezes well. Makes 6-8 servings.

Pasta with Pesto and Cherry Tomatoes

Claire Watts

Pesto:

5 big handfuls of basil leaves

¾ cup walnuts

Juice of 1 lemon

2 cloves garlic, peeled

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Pasta salad:

1 lb. bowtie pasta

¾ cup pesto (from recipe above)

½ pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Pesto directions: Place all ingredients in blender and blend until pesto is thick and smooth.

Pasta directions: Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Stir in pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain pasta. Run under cold water just until it stops steaming. Drain water. Dump pasta into serving bowl.

Stir in pesto until pasta is coated. Add tomatoes and feta. Season with salt and pepper

Baked Zucchini Ziti

Melinda Jackson

8 oz. ziti, uncooked

28-oz. can crushed tomatoes, low sodium

1 ½ tsp. Italian seasoning

1 cup grated zucchini (about 1 medium)

1 cup part skim ricotta cheese

1 cup shredded part skim mozzarella, divided

½ cup, plus 1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1 egg, lightly beaten

Salt and pepper

Cooking spray

Cook pasta according to package instructions; drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes and Italian seasoning. In a separate bowl, mix zucchini, ricotta, ½ cup mozzarella, ½ cup Parmesan and egg. Season with salt and pepper.

Coat a 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Spread half of tomato sauce on bottom. Top with ziti, ricotta mixture and remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining ½ cup mozzarella and 1 Tbsp. Parmesan.

Bake until top is brown and sauce is bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes.

Italian Macaroni and Cheese

Sandy Marino

1 lb. box ziti pasta

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 lb. block sharp cheddar cheese, grated

10 slices Velveeta cheese

1 cup milk

1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs

1 large can diced tomatoes

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook ziti until almost done. Drain. Add cheddar cheese, milk, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Break up Velveeta cheese into small pieces; add to mixture. Stir. Pour into buttered 9×13 baking dish. Bake covered with tin foil for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 10-15 minutes longer or until bubbles.

Gianfranco Frojo’s Pasta with Broccoli

Bob Fucci

6 oz. pasta, fusilli, penne rigate or rigatoni

1½ lb. broccoli florets

4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1 tsp. crushed red pepper

4 oz. grated Parmesan cheese

4 oz. grated pecorino Romano cheese

In a large skillet sauté garlic in olive oil on low heat for about 5 minutes; remove garlic. Add crushed red pepper; set the skillet aside.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water stirring occasionally for 3 minutes and then add the broccoli. Drain pasta and broccoli combination about 2 minutes shy of the cooking time printed on the pasta box, keeping some of the water. Transfer pasta and broccoli to the skillet on medium high heat and flip or stir gently. Add some of the pasta water if it looks too dry. Sprinkle with the combination of the two cheeses and serve. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Spicy Pasta with Garlic, Olive Oil and Tomatoes

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 Tbsp. finely chopped garlic

2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes

3 cans  crushed or diced tomatoes

1 can tomato paste

2 Tbsp. chopped parsley

2 tsp. basil

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. salt

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cooked pasta

In olive oil, cook garlic and pepper flakes. Stir in remaining ingredients; simmer 30 minutes. Serve over pasta and top with Parmesan cheese.

Chicken Supreme and Pasta

Betty Traylor

This is great for Sunday dinner. Prepare ahead and bake after church.

6 cups chickens, cut in chunks

Two 8-oz. cans chicken broth

8 oz. angel hair pasta

4 cans cream of chicken soup

2 cups mayonnaise

½ cup lemon juice

Medium onion, grated

3 oz. slivered almonds, sautéed in butter

Crushed potato chips

Spread Pam to coat 10-by-15 by 2-inch, 4-quart glass baking pan (or use two small pans).

Cook chicken in broth. Remove chicken and reserve broth for cooking pasta. Place cooked pasta in greased pan.

Mix chicken chunks with soup, mayonnaise, lemon juice and onion. Pour over pasta.

Bake at 350 degrees 30 minutes or until bubbly. Mix potato chips and almonds; spread on top to cover. Bake 10 minutes longer. Freezes well.

Spaghetti with Cherry Tomatoes and Pecorino

Gianfranco Frojo

1 pkg. cherry tomatoes

4 Tbsp. olive oil

2 garlic cloves

Good Italian Pecorino cheese

Fresh basil

Cut cherry tomatoes in half and place in a skillet with 4 Tbsp. olive oil and garlic, which you will remove before it gets brown. Cook on medium heat and help squish some of the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. This will help to reach a sauce consistency faster.

Add spaghetti when sauce looks ready (about 15 minutes max). Add shredded (not grated) pecorino and basil; coat pasta with cheese and sauce mixture. Add a little more shredded Pecorino to each plate and serve.

Penne with Pumpkin Sauce

Laurel Dudley

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups chicken stock

15-oz. can pumpkin puree (be sure it is pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling)

½ cup cream

2 pinches ground cinnamon

½ tsp. hot sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

8 leaves fresh sage, thinly sliced

Grated Parmesan cheese

1 lb. whole wheat penne pasta

Heat water for pasta; add salt and cook according to directions on package; drain. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic to pan and sauté 3 minutes. Stir in chicken stock, pumpkin and cream.

Add cinnamon, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer 5 to 6 minutes more to thicken. Stir in sage. Toss sauce with pasta and top with grated cheese.

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