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October is National Pasta Month. Many people have a favorite variety, but whatever kind you prefer, pasta seems to be an internationally liked food. It is versatile for any meal and used in various ways from appetizers to desserts.

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Pasta is a simple product made from flour, eggs, and water. While today many ancient grains are substituted to make pasta, wheat remains the most abundant source used for flour. When possible, choose whole wheat pasta, and if you have a wheat sensitivity, try gluten free.

We identify pastas by their various shapes and flavor. Among the most common ones are spaghetti, macaroni, linguine, fettuccine, vermicelli, penne, rotini, farfalle, orzo, and ziti.

Spaghetti is an all-time favorite and probably our most popular pasta. The long, thin, solid cylindrical pasta is a staple in many Italian dishes. Typical cooking time is 8 to 12 minutes.

Macaroni, a tubular pasta cut into short lengths, is a kid’s favorite, especially combined with melted cheese. Typical cooking time is 8 to 10 minutes.

Linguine is a ribbon pasta meaning “little tongues” in Italian. It is similar to fettuccine but elliptical instead of flat. Typical cooking time is 9 to 13 minutes.

Fettuccine, a ribbon pasta meaning “little ribbons,” is popular in Tuscan cuisine. Typical cooking time is 8 to 13 minutes.

Vermicelli, a strand pasta, is thinner than spaghetti. It literally means “little worms.” Typical cooking time is 5 to 7 minutes.

Penne is an extruded short, tube-shaped, and hollow pasta with ends cut at a bias. Typical cooking time is 10 to 13 minutes.

Rotini, meaning “twists,” are screw-like pasta cut into about one and a half to two-inch lengths. Typical cooking time is 8 to 12 minutes.

Farfalle is a type of pasta commonly known as bow-tie or butterfly pasta. The name is derived from the Italian word farfalle, which literally means “butterflies.” Typical cooking time is 8 to 15 minutes.

Orzo, also known as risoni, is a short-cut pasta shaped like a large grain of rice. It originated in Greece, but in Italy, orzo means “barley.” Typical cooking time is 7 to 10 minutes.

Ziti, an extruded pasta shaped into a long, wide tube, is broken by hand into smaller pieces before cooking. It may be stuffed and baked. Ziti comes from the word “zito” meaning bridegroom. Typical cooking time is 9 to 15 minutes.

1,097 Pasta Uncooked Stock Illustrations, Cliparts and Royalty Free Pasta  Uncooked Vectors

In case you have wondered, the difference between pastas and noodles is the type of flour from which it is made. Pasta is generally made from durum semolina, a coarser product than bread flour. It is made into a stiff dough and extruded through a mold to form varied shapes and sizes. Noodles, also made from unleavened dough, are passed through a series of rollers to produce a flat sheet of dough, a process called “sheeting.” Dough is sent to a cutter to make into individual strands.

Now that you know a little more about pasta, take the opportunity tonight to cook up your favorite dish. It’s quick and easy and loved by most everyone. Here is a quick family favorite. I often add other vegetable choices including bits of leftovers. Substitute salad shrimp for chicken to enjoy shrimp alfredo. Serve with hot fresh Italian bread and add a fruit dessert to complete a delicious and nutritious meal.

CHICKEN ALFREDO

8                     ounces penne or other pasta

1                     (15 ounce) jar creamy Alfredo sauce (Bertolli preferred)

1                     cup cooked chicken, cut into about 1″ pieces

½                    cup grape tomatoes, cut into halves

½                    cup frozen broccoli florets, chopped

½                    cup carrot coins, slice into 1/8″ to 1/4″ widths crosswise and cook slightly in a small amount of water in microwave

Directions:

Prepare pasta according to package directions. In a separate pan, heat sauce until it begins to bubble. Add in vegetables, either all or select a favorite. Cook on low heat for about 5-10 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add chicken and heat thoroughly. Serve over penne pasta or other favorite choice. Top with Parmesan cheese.

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