Pastatively wonderful - October is National Pasta Month

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National Pasta Association

Every October, Americans celebrate one of the tastiest months of the year – National Pasta Month. Pasta provides many benefits to families, including having a nutritious meal that is affordable, easy to customize, and supports a healthy diet. In celebration of this scrumptious month, below are fun facts that demonstrate why pasta continues to be one of America’s favorite foods.

Nutritional benefits: According to a consumer survey conducted by the National Pasta Association, 84-percent of consumers consider pasta to be a healthy food and an important part of a well-balanced diet. Its health benefits include carbohydrates for sustained energy, being low sodium and cholesterol free, as well as having a low glycemic index. Additionally, enriched varieties of pasta have folic acid, iron and several B- vitamins. Registered dietitian Diane Welland recommends pasta because “pasta provides both the inherent benefits of eating grains, such as energy, fiber and folic acid, and provides the health benefits of all the other added foods.” Find more pasta nutrition information here.

Versatility: Test your pasta knowledge with the popular pasta shapes dictionary! Just as you can customize your pasta dish with your favorite vegetables, meats and sauces, it can be fun to experiment with different shapes and countless recipes. There are over 600 pasta shapes to choose from, and playing around with different shapes can make your recipe unique.

In demand: The U.S. is the second highest pasta producing country in the world, second only to Italy, and the average American eats approximately 20 pounds of pasta per year.

High consumption: Many people incorporate pasta into their diet regimens. In fact, 77-percent of Americans surveyed in a National Pasta Association survey said they eat pasta at least once a week and a third said they eat it three times or more per week. Pasta is perfect for a quick, hearty lunch or dinner.

Healthy diet: As an integral part of the Mediterranean Diet lauded by nutritionists, pasta is the perfect canvas for adding in other healthy foods like lean proteins, colorful veggies, fiber-filled legumes or fresh fruit. Best of all, research shows that pasta eaters are more likely to have better overall diet quality than non-pasta eaters.

Timeless recipes: You could make a different pasta meal every night, but there are a few recipes Americans go back to time after time. Some classic pasta recipes include spaghetti and meatballs, fettuccine alfredo, penne alla vodka, pasta carbonara, beef stroganoff, macaroni and cheese and many others.

A diverse history: While it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when pasta came into existence, it has had a presence as early as the late 13th century across several different cultures, including the Etruscans, Chinese, English and Americans.

Environmentally-friendly: As a grain, pasta is among the least environmentally intrusive foods to produce, as grains require little water and have a very small carbon footprint.

Simple Weeknight Zucchini Pasta

Alex Caspero of Delish Knowledge, shares one of her favorite pasta dishes with us. Cooking the zucchini long enough will make these veggies turn into a delicious sauce bursting with flavor. Combine with tomatoes and this sauce is completely vegetarian.

30 minutes

12 ounces rigatoni

1/4 cup olive oil

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 pound zucchini squash, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced

1 large tomato, chopped

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the rigatoni to the pasta and cook until just al-dente according to package directions (undercook by 1 minute of the recommended cooking time.) Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water. Do not rinse the pasta!

While the water is boiling, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, salt and red pepper flakes and cook for just 30 seconds, until fragrant but not browned.

Add the zucchini and tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until squash begins to break down. Add in the pasta and toss, adding a few tablespoons of reserved pasta water at a time, tossing the entire time to finish cooking the pasta and allow the zucchini-tomato sauce to stick to the noodles.

Stir in the cheese, lemon juice and basil and toss well and serve.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 493 calories, 3.5 g sugar, 468 mg sodium, 18.2 fat, 4 g saturated fat, 13 g unsaturated fat, 67 g carbohydrates, 3.4 g fiber, 15.7 g protein.

Baked Ziti with Turkey, Squash and Caramelized Onions

Fresh herbs and hearty squash make this comforting dish perfect for cold evenings. It’s great for large crowds or reheating during the week as leftovers.

Total time: 45 minutes

Yield: 12 servings

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 tsp. brown sugar

12oz. extra-lean ground turkey

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 tsp. chopped fresh sage

1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary

1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper

2 cups diced butternut squash

2 cups diced acorn squash

1/2 cup sodium-reduced chicken broth

12oz. ziti or penne pasta

3/4cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1/3cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400ÀöF. Heat olive oil in large skillet set over medium heat; cook onion and brown sugar, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 17 minutes or until tender and deep golden.

Add turkey, garlic, sage, rosemary, salt and pepper, stirring with wooden spoon to break up turkey. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until turkey is browned. Add squash and broth; bring to boil.

Reduce to simmer; cover and cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until squash is just tender.

In large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta for 6 to 8 minutes or until al dente; drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water. Toss together pasta, reserved pasta water, squash mixture and mozzarella; transfer to 13- x 9-inch glass baking dish.

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese; bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden. Sprinkle with parsley.

Tip: Substitute crumbled Italian sausage or ground pork for turkey if desired.

Makes 12 servings. Per serving: 230 calories, 7 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 35 mg cholesterol, 200 mg sodium, 28 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 14 g protein.

Chicken Lasagna with Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard

Lasagna is a fun and versatile dish that’s always a crowd-pleaser. Sweet potato and Swiss chard make this version a seasonal comfort classic.

Total Time: 90 minutes

Yield: 12 servings

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 lb. lean ground chicken

1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper

4 cups chopped Swiss chard

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups sodium-reduced crushed tomatoes

9 oven-ready lasagna sheets

2 cups thinly sliced sweet potatoes

11/2 cups low-fat ricotta cheese

11/2 cups low-fat shredded Italian cheese blend

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 375ÀöF. Heat oil in large skillet set over medium-high heat; cook chicken, salt and pepper, breaking up with wooden spoon, for about 5 minutes or until browned.

Add Swiss chard, basil, onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes or until onion and Swiss chard are tender.

Spread one-quarter of the tomatoes in bottom of greased 13- x 9-inch glass baking dish.

Arrange 3 lasagna sheets over top. Layer 1/3 of the sweet potatoes, 1/3 of the chicken mixture, 1/3 of the remaining tomatoes, 1/3 of the ricotta cheese and 1/3 of the Italian cheese blend over top. Repeat layers twice. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Cover with foil; bake for 65 to 70 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender.

Preheat oven to broil. Remove foil; broil for 30 seconds to 2 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden. Sprinkle with parsley and let stand for 5 minutes before slicing.

Tip: You can substitute Italian sausage, ground pork or beef for chicken if desired.

Makes 4 servings. 260 calories, 11 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 65 mg cholesterol, 610 mg sodium, 35 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 29 g protein.

One-Pot Chicken Chili Pasta

It’s hard to be left chilly after a warm, hearty bowl of this Tex-Mex chili with pasta. Delicious, filling and made in one pot, this recipe is sure to become a household staple.

Total time: 60 minutes

Yield: 8 servings


1 tbsp. olive oil

12 oz. lean ground chicken

1 onion, chopped

3cloves garlic, minced

1 cup diced carrots

1/2 cup chopped celery

2/3 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed

1 poblano pepper, chopped

1 jalape ±o pepper, seeded and diced

1 tbsp. chili powder

2 tsp. cocoa powder

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/4 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper

3 tbsp. tomato paste

1 can (28 oz.) no-salt-added diced tomatoes

1 can (14 oz.) no-salt-added pinto beans

1/4 cup brewed coffee

4 oz. small shell pasta

1/4 cup thinly sliced radishes

1/2 avocado, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced

2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

Lime wedges

Heat oil in large Dutch oven or heavy-bottom pot set over medium heat; cook chicken for 5 to 7 minutes or until browned. Add onion, garlic, carrots, celery, corn, poblano, jalape ±o, chili powder, cocoa powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes or until vegetables have softened and spices are fragrant. Add tomato paste; cook for 1 minute.

Stir in tomatoes, beans, coffee and 1 cup water; simmer for 15 minutes. Add pasta; cover and cook for 12 to 15 minutes or until pasta and vegetables are tender.

Garnish chili with radishes, avocado and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

Tip: Mix and match toppings: Try crushed tortilla chips, grated Monterey Jack cheese, sliced green onions or sour cream.

Makes 8 servings. Per serving: 230 calories, 8 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 200 mg sodium, 27 g carbohydrates, 6 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 13 g sugar

Pappardelle with Chicken Cacciatore

This hunter-style Italian classic is the perfect dish for dinner guests – packed with lots of flavor and simple to prepare.

Total time: 60 minutes

8 small skinless bone-in chicken thighs

1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper

1 tbsp. olive oil

8 oz. pappardelle pasta

12/3 cups thinly sliced onions

12/3 cups thinly sliced fennel

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped red pepper

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary

1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme

2 tbsp. capers

1/4 cup white wine

2 cups no-salt-added crushed tomatoes

1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large skillet set over medium-high heat; cook chicken, turning once, for 8 to 10 minutes or until browned. Transfer to plate.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water.

In same skillet, cook onions, fennel, carrots, red pepper, garlic, celery, rosemary and thyme over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Stir in capers.

Add wine and reserved pasta water to skillet. Simmer for about 5 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Return chicken to skillet; add tomatoes, turning to coat. Cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and tender.

Divide pasta evenly among plates. Top with chicken and sauce. Sprinkle with parsley.

Tip: Serve with Parmesan cheese curls for added indulgence.

Makes 8 servings. Per serving: 280 calories, 7 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 70 mg cholesterol, 220 mg sodium, 34 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 19 g protein.

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