One of the easiest meals to cook at the end of a busy day is pasta. A pot of boiling water, a skillet and about 30 minutes are all you need for a dinner that satisfies the whole family. Add whatever meat you have on hand, go vegetarian or use a little of both. You can easily put your own stamp on each pasta dish by substituting ingredients and using different sauces. Garlic bread and ready-made salad complete your meal.
Mac & Cheese
Dress up this kids' favorite by using a different kind of flavorful cheese, such as Swiss or gruyere, or combine one or the other with the traditional cheddar. Add peas and cubes of ham, or add sautéed mushrooms and onions. Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Instead of baking the cheese into the macaroni, melt it in the microwave. Stir the dress-up ingredients into to the partly melted cheese and finish melting. Drain the macaroni, return it to the pot and fold in the cheese mixture.
Chicken and Citrus Pasta
Cook any type of pasta you like -- whole wheat to be healthier. While it is boiling, saute thin, boneless chicken breasts in olive oil. Or to save time use frozen chicken tenders. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. When cooked or heated through, slice or cube it on a cutting board. In the same skillet, saute garlic, add broccoli or another vegetable of choice and chicken broth, then let it steam. Add the chicken along with juice and zest from either a lemon or orange. Stir in walnuts with the lemon or cashews with the orange, and fold the mixture into the buttered pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan and add more citrus to taste.
Use cheese ravioli for this variation on pizza. Cook the ravioli according to the package directions. Heat your favorite jarred spaghetti sauce and toss in pepperoni, black olives, green peppers or whatever type of pizza toppings you like. Heat the sauce either in a skillet or in the microwave, depending on how much time you have. Stir the ravioli gently into the sauce or spoon it onto plates and ladle the sauce over it. Top with shredded Parmesan and mozzarella cheese.
Pasta and Sauce
Probably the easiest and fastest pasta meal to cook is angel hair spaghetti with a jar of spaghetti sauce. You can vary it by using macaroni or noodles and adding different meats to the sauce. Try rigatoni, spirals, egg noodles or linguini noodles. Cook some Italian-seasoned ground turkey or sausage and add it to the sauce. Instead of ladling the sauce over the pasta, stir it in and mix in shredded mozzarella for stringy, cheesy, yummy bites. By making this easy, almost effortless dish, you can have dinner on the table in less than half an hour.
- Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images