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My Most Favorite Fallback

A while back, I wrote--at length--about the conspiracy of salad. The point of that post, however, was actually how great and versatile pasta is. Allow me to wax poetic some more about that wonderful Durham/semolina creation...

Here's the scene: It's getting onto dinnertime, you've had a long day working either at the office or home or both, you don't have a lot of time, and let's say the house isn't as organized as it could be. Sound familiar? I know that that's my day at least once a week (usually Wednesday) and I don't even have kids. I just can't imagine how you all with little ones do it! Anyhoo, you have mouths to feed. Holy cow, what now? Grab your friend, pasta, throw together some veggies and maybe some meat, and whip up a quick sauce. One dish or two dishes and dinner is on the table. How great is that? Here are a couple of throw-together dishes I've created in the past that have done the job quickly and easily.

Zippy Spaghetti With Great White Sauce
See, I can be creative with names :-)

3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1 1/2 to 2 cups milk (depending on how thick you like it)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 large pinch of salt
Spaghetti (any type will do, but I prefer whole wheat)
1 lb bulk mild sausage, crumbled and cooked (you can use sweet Italian sausage if your little ones don't like heat or hot sausage if they do)

Put a large pot of water on to boil. When it's boiling, salt the water and cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, make a roux out of the butter and flour. Add the milk, cheese and salt, mix well, and let thicken. You can add a little starchy cooking water at the end if that's your style too. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Combine everything in a large bowl and mix well. Serve with veggies or salad of your choice on the side.

*For a great vegetarian version, replace the sausage with roughly chopped, sauteed mushrooms. Use either fresh, chopped garlic added right at the end for a slow, rolling heat or just enough cayenne to suit your taste for a sharp heat.

A Few of My Favorite Things Pasta Mix

1 lb tricolor fusili
1 lb ground beef or pork, crumbled and cooked
1 box frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes (I like the Italian style ones)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Put a large pot of water on to boil. When it's boiling, salt the water and cook pasta according to package directions. Combine all but the meat and cheese in a very large pan and heat through. Add in meat, pasta, and cheese and mix well.

These are just a few different things I've done with pasta lately. The possibilities are endless. I was so pleased when I made the Zippy Spaghetti and Mike said to me, "Write this one down!" You see, we have had some great throw-together meals that shall never be repeated simply because I don't remember how I made them. I'm trying to be better about this. I really love the favorite things pasta mix because it's just a few great ingredients that make up one awesome meal. The artichoke hearts are a special treat especially, though, because you get that great, earthy taste without all the work.

You can do almost anything with this great pantry staple, so get creative! Be the author of your own kitchen creations! And, above all else, enjoy!

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