- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Among the joys of dried pasta are that it’s fast, easy to prepare and lends itself to lots of additions and flavors. It’s really a blank canvas.

Here are three of my favorite pasta sauces to inspire you to healthy and delicious winter dinners that don’t take hours to make. Not only are they easy and fast, none even requires cooking.

In the first recipe, you simply chop the ingredients and toss them with hot pasta. I recommend a large shell-shaped pasta. That pasta is perfect for a rustic combination like this because bits of the chunky sauce become trapped inside the shell, making each bite unique.

In the second, I’ve adapted the sauce that is traditionally served in Italy with vitello tonnato, a classic dish of sliced veal garnished with sauce along with oil-cured olives, lemon slices and braised young vegetables. But the sauce is equally delicious on pasta.

This recipe makes enough for a generous pound of dry pasta. Use any shape you’d like, but one that will offer places to which the sauce can cling, such as large tubes or corkscrew shapes.

In the third preparation, silken tofu and lots of greens and herbs give the sauce a rich creaminess and body, without all the saturated fat of cream. With its delicate custardlike texture, silken tofu is perfect for making sauces and mayonnaise-type concoctions. If you are cooking for friends who think tofu is weird, just don’t mention the ingredients. No one will guess. Select a pasta shape that has places to which the sauce can cling.

All of these recipes assume 12 ounces to 1 pound or so of dried pasta and should easily serve four.

A couple of final thoughts on cooking dry pasta: Never add oil to pasta cooking water. When you drain the pasta, it will cling to the surface and make the pasta slippery so sauce won’t stick to it.

Be sure pasta cooking water is well salted. It should taste like seawater.

Artichoke and olive sauce with conchiglioni

1 6-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained

1 cup diced and red bell pepper, preferably roasted (about cup)

1/3 cup chopped, pitted green or black olives, or a combination

1/3 cup chopped lightly toasted walnuts

1 cup loosely packed basil leaves, chopped (about 2/3 cup chopped)

2 teaspoons minced garlic

cup or so extra-virgin olive oil or basil oil

cup freshly shredded or grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

A few drops of lemon juice

Freshly ground pepper

12 ounces to 1 pound conchiglioni or other cooked pasta

Chop artichoke hearts coarsely and combine with bell pepper, olives, walnuts, basil, garlic, oil,

cup cheese, lemon zest, and lemon juice and pepper to taste. Sauce can be made up to a day ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator. Toss with cooked pasta and serve immediately with a sprinkling of additional cheese for garnish. Makes about 3 cups sauce.

Tuna sauce for pasta

3/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 61/3-ounce) can tuna packed in oil (preferably Italian)

1 egg yolk

4 to 6 anchovy fillets, rinsed

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

About 1/3 cup rich chicken stock

3 tablespoons drained and chopped capers

cup minced flat leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground white pepper

12 ounces to 1 pound penne or other cooked pasta

ith its oil, egg yolk, anchovy fillets to taste and lemon juice,FIXT BY CW AFTER VERSIONS CHECK not in ingredients list.cw

and process briefly to puree. Place mixture in a small mixing bowl and gradually pour and stir in cream and enough stock so that sauce is of desired consistency. Stir in capers and parsley and correct seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Toss with cooked pasta, either hot or cool. Makes about 2

cups sauce.

1/3Green herb sauce for pasta

1/31 cup chopped fresh basil

1 cup chopped fresh spinach or Romaine lettuce

1/3 cup chopped fresh chives or scallion tops

1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic or 3 tablespoons chopped, poached garlic

3/4 cup soft silken tofu

cup freshly grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese

2 teaspoons toasted sesame or hazelnut oil

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

A few drops of lemon juice

About cup chicken or vegetable stock

12 ounces to 1 pound cooked pasta of choice

Place basil, spinach or romaine, chives or scallion tops, garlic, tofu, cheese, oil, and salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste in a food processor or blender, and mix until smooth. Add enough stock for desired consistency. Best if used within an hour after pureeing. Toss with hot or cool pasta. Makes 2 plus cups sauce.

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