I’m no chef. Let’s get that straight from the get go. However, I do make good food and I’m efficient at it. I also eat a lot of pasta for my athletic life. Pasta doesn’t take long to get a dull so over the years, I’ve found a few ways to very quickly, easily and economically make my pasta meals more interesting. These won’t blow your mind or taste buds away or anything, but they’re effective.
1. Mix types of pasta (pasta dictionary)
Don’t make all your pasta in a meal spaghetti, or capellini (angel hair) or vermicelli, etc. Buy boxes of various types, open them all and use a bit of two or more each time out. You’re going to eat it all eventually anyway, but nobody ever said you had to finish each box before you finish.
The pasta do have different cooking times, so you’ll have to choose how you deal with this. I would recommend having pasta of similar cooking times, though, like a minute apart, two at most, rather than something that takes 4 and something that takes 9, unless you want to time thing that adds the tiniest of challenges. With pastas of different cooking times, you can either:
- Put them in all at the same time and get different firmness from them, which makes the mixed weight texture even more interesting.
- Space out similar cooking time pasta types to get all the same firmness.
That’s a two for one if you want to try both of them as two separate techniques. They’ll give you two different textures to enjoy!
As for pasta types, I tend to like using these combinations of pastas, or noodles:
- Vermicelli, capellini and/or egg noodles
- Spaghetti, fettuccine and/or linguine
- Fusili, shells, rotini, gemelli, rigatoni and/or penne rigate, usually with one type each of the swirls and other shape
- Alphabets, wagon wheels, rotelles and/or anelli (just capital Os basically)
There are so many others as you can see in the pasta dictionary! Be creative and try your own combinations. Mathematically, you’ve got enough for a year’s worth of meals, even after eliminating all the more challenging ones with big differences in cooking times!
2. Mix two brands of same or similar sauces
If you mix pasta types, why not mix sauces? This one is a bit more challenging because not all combinations of pasta sauces go well together. However, if you took just two brands of the same kind of sauce, like tomato sauce, especially two variations of tomato sauces, and mixed them, they’ll generally go together well. Just put half the quantity you usually put in from one batch of sauce, of each of the two sauces.
I have mixed cream sauces with tomato sauces before, and I have to say I like it!
3. Add some diced up raw spices / vegetables
Restaurants don’t usually do this and I don’t know why. While I’m cooking the pasta, I usually dice up some green onions, cilantro and/or mint leaves. You pick whatever you like. The fresh spices definitely add a little zing to what might otherwise be a bit dull and/or bland pasta.
4. Swap the main ingredients
What’s the “main” ingredient can be debatable, of course. However, think of the name of your dish, or describe it in short and whatever is included, counts. For example, spaghetti with meat balls in tomato sauce. Well, your pasta and sauces got accounted for, and the previous tips lets you swap them already. What’s left are the meat balls. Swap that with pork one day, maybe even shrimp another day.
I sometimes even make the switch extreme enough to be between vegetarian and omnivore. My pasta salads are often just a swap between having white mushrooms slightly cooked, thrown in after I turn off the stove until the water stops bubbling from boiling, and emptied, and shrimps actually cooked in the water. I do use different spices and vegetables with each, though. I don’t use anything spicy like fresh mint with the shrimps that might mask their taste. Nor do I use baby spinach. However, I do use spices with the vegetarian version to add some zing, and will sometimes even add a little soya sauce cause I do find vegetables bland, I have to admit.
So those are my quick, simple and economical tips. Well, the shrimps aren’t if you don’t get them on sale, but for the most part, these tips are very practical. For a few simple things, you can do so much! Just keeping track of it all is mentally engaging, never mind actually doing it to enjoy it! 🙂