Keeping a few basic ingredients on hand allows you to create dozens of different spaghetti dishes. Cooking a pot of spaghetti may take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes, and that window of time is all you need to whip up the rest of the dish. Combining different sauces with different ingredients allows you to transform a pot of plain pasta almost magically into a meal to suit the tastes and dietary needs of your family.
Opening a jar of tomato-based spaghetti sauce is easy, but it's not your only option when you're choosing a sauce for spaghetti. To make a simple homemade tomato sauce, sauté garlic and onions in olive oil until the onions are translucent. Add cherry tomatoes and cook until they start to pop open. A cheesy Alfredo sauce is also a decadent sauce to pair with spaghetti. Make a traditional Alfredo sauce out of butter, flour, cream and Parmesan cheese, but add the shredded cheese of your choice. For a non-traditional take on Alfredo sauce, omit the flour and replace it with ranch-flavored dry mix. Stir just until the cheese is melted. Jarred pesto is also tasty and easier to buy than to make yourself. For a wonderfully flavorful but simple sauce, sauté crushed or minced garlic with some Italian herbs in plenty of butter, or in olive oil for a healthier base.
Pairing seafood with pasta is ideal, since the mild flavor of the pasta allows the delicate flavor of the seafood to be the star. Add grilled shrimp or scallops to spaghetti tossed simply with olive oil and lemon, or add escarole, chopped tomatoes and ranch-flavored seasoning mix to give the dish a bit more flavor. Some seafood ingredients have a strong enough flavor that they can stand up to a heavier sauce. Add fresh or canned tuna or fresh clams to spaghetti with tomato sauce or pesto.
Adding meat to a bowl of noodles adds protein so these dishes may make you feel full for longer. A meal of pasta and chicken will appeal to nearly anyone. Cook your own chicken breasts and chop them into chunks, or make life even simpler by buying a precooked chicken from the grocery store and pulling the meat into shreds. If you prefer red meat, sauté a combination of ground beef and ground pork with onions, or slice and cook sausages. If you're using a simple olive oil or butter sauce for the pasta, give the meat a bit of extra flavor by cooking it with ranch-flavored dry mix.
Even if you're on a diet, you don't have to avoid pasta. A meal of whole-wheat spaghetti, vegetables and a light sauce is a healthy and filling meal. The less you do to vegetables, the better and fresher they'll taste, making them an easy addition to pasta. Cook asparagus until it's tender, chop it into pieces and add to the pasta along with fresh peas. For a pasta dish filled with color, slice red, yellow and orange peppers, then add them along with broccoli florets to spaghetti. Use a simple butter or olive oil sauce for the pasta, and make extras to take for lunches. Combine the leftovers with a creamy salad dressing for a nutritious cold pasta salad.
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