Cooking and Baking

Busy In Brooklyn’s 10 Things To Make With Pasta

Chanie Apfelbaum July 24, 2017

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Pasta is that family-friendly staple that never goes out of style, but we do sometimes run out of new ideas for serving it to keep things fresh.

This is especially true during the Nine Days, when we don’t eat meat. It’s a heightened period of mourning, so much so, that we are encouraged not to bathe for pleasure, cut our nails or even wash our clothes, and while we’ve all got to eat, it is suitable if the meals we serve are basic. I keep things simple with these easy weeknight pasta dishes and other pasta hacks.

1. Easy Peasy Lasagna 

Thanks to no-boil lasagna sheets, making lasagna has never been easier. After much trial and error, I’ve discovered some of the ways to make the no-boil sheets just as soft and tender as the boiled version. When you’re done assembling your lasagna noodles (layering the noodles in opposite directions in each layer keeps the lasagna from falling apart when you cut it), fill your marinara jar with a little water and pour it over the top of the pan. Then, cover the pan with parchment paper and a layer of foil. This helps steam the noodles so they’re perfectly soft every time! Get my recipe here.

2. Tuna or Salmon Pasta Salad

When the summer Shabbosim are long and hot, I love making a cold tuna pasta salad to serve for Shalosh Seudos. I use whatever veggies I have left in the fridge, some canned corn, mayo and spices and you’ve got a whole meal in one. You can even use soft Israeli cheese instead of the mayo to really take it over the top! Get my recipe here.

3. Asian Noodles with Tofu

If you don’t eat much dairy, try making your favorite Asian noodles with some tempeh or tofu and lots of fresh stir fried veggies. Cut the tofu into small bite-sized pieces and you’ll forget it’s even there!

4. Minestrone Soup

Instead of making the pasta the star of the show, try making a veggie-loaded soup where the pasta is just one of the ingredients. My kids especially love alphabet pasta in their minestrone, but ditalini and mini elbows work well too. Get my recipe here.

5. Seasonal Pesto Pasta

I love making the most of the seasonal bounty and there’s nothing quite like fresh summer basil! Make a fresh pesto and thin it out with a little bit of pasta cooking water to create a creamy sauce. You can even add zucchini noodles to help bulk up the dish without the added calories.

6. Sneaky Mac ‘n Cheese

With lots of picky kids in the house, I tend to sneak veggies into their food instead of bribing them to eat it. One of my tricks it to use butternut squash in my mac ‘n cheese in lieu of bechamel sauce. It adds great creaminess, and since it’s the same color as cheddar cheese, you can fool your kids into eating an extra veggie. My simple hack? Use baby food jars for simple and easy prep.

7. Meat-Free Spaghetti Bolognese

I’m a big fan of Trader Joe’s soy beef crumbles, especially for Meatless Mondays. I often make a “beef” taco skillet with shredded cheddar or a lazy bolognese with grated parmesan. Simply sauté the crumbles with some garlic and onion and add a jar of marinara sauce and a splash of wine, if desired. Serve with your favorite pasta shape.

8. Veggie Stuffed Shells

I love to bulk up stuffed shells with lots of sauteed veggies like carrots, mushrooms, and spinach instead of just an all-cheese version. The veggies add great flavor and help “unguilty” the rich and heavy dish.

9. Wonton Ravioli

Wonton wrappers are the best-kept secret for easy homemade ravioli. Prepare your favorite filling (I love butternut squash puree, sauteed mushrooms, beet + feta or pea puree) and place a spoonful in the center of a wonton wrapper. Brush the dough with egg wash and top with a second wrapper. Press down around the filling and towards the corners until the dough is sealed. Cook in heavily-salted boiling water until the ravioli floats to the top. Easy as pie.

10. Zoodles

I know this is a pasta list but I can’t help but share my all time favorite pasta hack! I create zoodles, or zucchini noodles, using a julienne peeler and sauté them briefly over high heat (2 minutes). Then, I stir in some marinara, bring it to a simmer and add a handful of shredded mozzarella. In five minutes you’ve got yourself a guilt-free “cheesy “pasta” dinner that truly feels like the real thing.