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A&E >  Food

Win at pasta with the approachable recipes in this cookbook

Quick look: From arrabbiata sauce to baked ziti, this all-about-pasta cookbook offers some 175 recipes for fresh and dried noodles and all kinds of sauces.

What’s inside: A comforting and versatile staple, pasta makes for perfect, quick-cooking weeknight meals. Pair it with sauce. Put it in soups. Slice up some vegetables and toss them with noodles.

This book offers all sorts of combinations – from the classic marinara, bolognese, vodka, puttanesca and basil pesto sauces to more elegant and elaborate dishes: fresh four-cheese homemade ravioli, fettuccine alfredo and spaghetti with white clam sauce.

Recipes are labeled quick (cooking in 30 minutes or less) or meatless and divided into five chapters: signature pasta and sauces, skillet dinners, salads, one-pot soups and oven-baked meals. The first two are for homemade pasta (regular and gluten free). You’ll find Asian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Caribbean and Southwestern influences as well as the expected classic Italian and American flavors.

Look for bow ties with chicken and asparagus, one-pot chicken ziti with artichokes and spinach, Cajun pasta with smoked sausage and Creole shrimp pasta.

Other recipes include browned butter orecchiette with broccoli rabe, orzo with chicken and fresh herbs, sesame noodle salad, chicken and spinach tortellini soup, Thai beef noodle bowls and a mushroom-fettuccine bake.

A brief introduction discusses purchasing pointers as well as storage and cooking tips. Other tips – toppings for mac and cheese, jazzing up a jar of sauce, three-ingredient pasta sauces – are sprinkled throughout. Most recipes are accompanied by full-page, color photos. There are 125 images in the book.

What’s not: There’s nothing too complicated in this cookbook. Recipes are approachable and accessible, which is particularly good for beginning cooks, hurried families and pasta novices.

Orzo with Chicken and Fresh Herbs

From “The Big Book of Pasta” by Betty Crocker

This recipe easily doubles and takes 25 minutes to make, start to finish.

1/2 cup uncooked orzo or rosamarina pasta (about 3 1/2 ounces)

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, oregano, marjoram or thyme leaves (or a combination)

2 cups cut-up cooked chicken

1 cup small fresh mozzarella cheese balls (about 6 ounces)

4 large leaves butter lettuce

Cook and drain pasta as directed on package. Rinse with cold water; drain.

In a large bowl, mix tomatoes, garlic, oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and herbs. Add chicken, cheese and cooked pasta; toss until evenly coasted.

To serve, spoon 1 1/4 cups salad onto each lettuce leaf.

Yield: 4 servings

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