Things You'll Need
Large pasta bowl
Large sauce and saute pans
While red sauce over pasta is deemed by many to be the classic Italian dish, the use of tomato sauce on pasta is really a regional preference. There's much more to pasta than marinara or Alfredo. Pasta can be combined with almost anything if you keep in mind a few basics. Get creative and punch up pasta night by learning how to cook pasta without tomato sauce.
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Cook your pasta al dente, which means "firm to the tooth." Check your pasta as it cooks and cook it for slightly less time than the package directs.
Be creative with your additional ingredients. Grilled salmon, chicken or shrimp, Cajun redfish, bacon, leftover roast or ham all can contribute to satisfying pasta dishes. Choose firm vegetables such as broccoli, artichoke hearts, peas, carrots and scallions to make a complete dish of your pasta. Pre-cook each meat ingredient and steam vegetables. Pour the hot pasta over your other ingredients in the colander after cooking so everything is hot at the right time.
Use the right seasonings. Basil, garlic, oregano and anise are classic seasonings, but you might occasionally try adding some ginger instead of anise to salmon or shrimp. For a bold taste, grill shrimp or chicken with Cajun spices and put a drop of hot sauce in the olive oil.
Dress your pasta rather than burying it in sauce. Use margarine with your olive oil to coat the pasta and soften the strong taste of the olive oil. This dressing should be just enough to carry the seasonings and prevent your pasta from sticking together.
Try a new combination of pasta and ingredients. If you always use spaghetti or capellini, try linguini next time. Veggie rotini looks great with shrimp or ham, and bow tie pasta works well with chicken. Or fill sturdy manicotti with pesto and grilled or smoked salmon. Try wilted spinach or shredded prosciutto with tricolor tortellini. Put together the sauce for pasta carbonara by using eggs whisked with Parmesan cheese and cooking it off the heat source with sauteed bacon and chopped garlic.
Keep it simple but finish with an impressive garnish. Chop up some fresh Italian plum tomatoes. Toss them in basil, crushed garlic and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle them over your pasta dishes. Or garnish your pasta with fresh cilantro, Italian curled parsley or basil.
Al dente pasta keeps cooking when you take it off the stove. Don't let it sit in its water or it will become mushy. Drain it immediately and add butter or oil to seal the pasta so it doesn't stick.