Pasta is one of the greatest things that ever happened to grains. Pasta may have its origins in Asia and the Mediterranean, but its growing popularity has made it an American favorite. Here are the most common questions asked about this favorite.
"What is pasta?"
"Pasta" is the Italian word for "paste". All pasta is made from dough of grain flour mixed with water. There are many different shapes and sizes of pasta. While most are made from wheat, other grains can also be used. Isn't pasta fattening? Not necessarily. Pasta is low fat because grains are low fat. It's what you put on the pasta that makes it fattening. The calories and much of the nutritional quality of pasta dishes depend, for better or worse, on the sauce you put on top of the pasta. Carefully choose your sauce and pasta, and the the result can be a nutritious medium-calorie meal.
"What do the different names for pasta mean?"
Take dough made from grain, force it through a variety of differently shaped molds, and out come nifty noodles of varying shapes -- flat, smooth, solid, hollow, and twisted. Give to these wiggly forms melodious Italian names, and you have the many kinds of pasta that sit on the supermarket shelf. The shape of the noodles determines the name of the pasta:
Pasta made with whole grain flours, such as whole wheat pasta, are naturally the most nutrient-rich because the bran and germ of the grain have been left in. It has 25% more protein, three times the fiber, and fewer calories than white pasta. Whole-wheat pasta is tan in color, rather than the golden color of pasta that includes refined wheat. Whole wheat means what it says - the whole grain.
1 lb whole wheat linguini
3/4 cup broccoli florets
3/4 cup cauliflower, chopped
3/4 cup carrots, sliced thin or julienne
1/4 cup peas
1/2 cup fresh mushrooms
2 cups ripe tomatoes, chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon basil
3 cups vegetable stock or bullion
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch of red pepper flake (Optional)
To prepare the Primavera sauce: heat the oil in a large skillet and add the minced garlic and cook. Add the carrots, mushrooms, cauliflower, peas and broccoli and stir until crispy tender for at least 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, the vegetable stock, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer for five minute or until the vegetables are tender, but remain somewhat firm.
Cook the whole wheat linguini according to directions on the package. Drain well in a colander and place the drained pasta in a large bowl, add half the sauce and grated cheese and mix well. Place in individual dishes and top with remaining sauce. Serve immediately.
Note: You can substitute the vegetable stock with heavy cream to make a "creamy" primavera or a small can of plum tomatoes to make a "marinara" primavera.