I was browsing the aisles at the grocery store and as I trolled through aisle 10 it occurred to me that there are a lot of different types of pasta. I’m guilty of grabbing the same-old, same-old bag of elbow macaroni and box of thin spaghetti as I literally run down the grocery list. But today I’m taking my time, looking on shelves that are usually just a blur.
There’s long pasta, ribbon-cut pasta, short-cut extruded pasta, decorative pasta, minute pasta, stuffed pasta, and irregular shaped pasta. Add to that the specialty lines that are gluten-free, vegetable infused and artisanal varieties. So I set out to expand my family’s exposure to the wide-world-of-pasta!
According to the National Pasta Association (NPA), the average American consumes 20 pounds of pasta annually. This makes it the sixth highest food per capita in the country as we eat a total of 6 billion pounds of pasta a year. The association says 4.4 billion pounds of pasta are produced here in the United States each year, ranking us the second largest pasta-producing nation.
Pasta is an economical staple for your pantry and, when eaten in the correct portions, has a place in your diet. Actually, pasta is a great partner for delivering healthy food you should have each day including nutrient-dense foods. Pasta partners like anti-oxidant rich tomato sauce and protein-packed cheese and lean meats create meals that you can feel good about.
With so many types of pasta, gauging the serving size can be confusing. The NPA provides a comparison snapshot:
• For short pastas and egg noodles, like elbow macaroni, shells, spirals, wagon wheels, ziti, etc., two ounces uncooked is roughly equal to 1/2 cup dry and about 1 cup cooked. Larger, bulkier shapes such as bowties, penne rigate, rigatoni, and wide noodles may yield more, while smaller shapes such as stars or alphabets may yield less. For long goods such as spaghetti, angel hair, vermicelli, linguine, etc., two ounces uncooked equal ½-inch bunch dry and 1 cup cooked.
• To make a single portion of pasta use approximately 1/2 cup dry pasta or measure 1/2 inch diameter of dry long pasta (1 cup or 2 grain servings cooked).
In response to dietary guidance urging Americans to include more whole grains in their diets, manufacturers have introduced nutritionally enhanced pasta varieties such as whole wheat, whole grain and pasta fortified with omega-3 fatty acids and additional fiber. Some varieties of whole grain pasta can provide up to 25% of daily fiber requirements in every one cup portion.
When cooking your pasta, you should typically follow the package directions. To add flavor and reduce stickiness, add salt to boiling water before adding pasta. Your recipe may call for al dente pasta if it is to be further cooked or baked in the dish.
Here is one of the recipes we tried this week!
B.L.T. Pappardelle Pasta
One thing I like about pasta is that you can easily adapt it to the season. This is bacon, lettuce and tomato season in our home! The pappardelle pasta is a large, very broad and flat noodle, similar to wide fettuccini. This dish can be served warm or chilled and served 6.
1 lb. sliced bacon
1/3 c. red wine vinegar
1/3 c. mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. minced white onion
¾ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
12 oz. pappardelle pasta or fettuccini
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
¼ head iceberg lettuce, shredded
1. In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels and crumble or break into bite-size pieces. Reserve 1 Tbsp. bacon grease.
2. Whisk 1 Tbsp. bacon grease in a bowl with vinegar, mayo, olive oil, onion, salt and pepper until combined.
3. Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain and toss with vinaigrette. Stir in bacon, tomatoes and lettuce.