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Remembering the pasta

Once upon a time, pasta was popular. It was ever-present in pop culture and carried several connotations. Guns N’ Roses named one of its albums “The Spaghetti Incident.” Little kids would sing “On Top of Spaghetti” to the tune of “On Top of Old Smokey.” Spaghetti westerns became cult classics.Italian food came to be associated with the Mafia, with movies like “Goodfellas” and “The Godfather” Pasta was also seen as a romantic food: Who can forget the spaghetti scene in “Lady and the Tramp”? The two dogs kiss over a shared noodle as the the chef sings “That’s Amoré” in the background. And of course, pasta was a popular energy food – athletes would carbo-load on bowls of spaghetti the night before a big race or event.Then Dr. Robert C. Atkins introduced the low-carb diet and pasta became taboo. Pasta sales dropped dramatically and low-carb variations on the noodle appeared on store shelves (never mind that they were always extremely al dente, no matter how long they were cooked).But pasta can be good for you. It’s an excellent source of energy, and whole-grain kinds provide fiber. And pasta is versatile – add chicken, sausage or meatballs for protein. Toss in some veggies or pour on the tomato sauce and you’ve added even more nutrition. Heck, you can pair pasta with just about anything (though I don’t recommend dousing it in syrup, like Will Ferrell does in the movie “Elf”).So give pasta its props. They’re way overdue.Angel hair with basil and tomatoes1 pound angel hair or capellini, uncooked 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 tablespoon minced garlic 5 cups tomatoes, diced 12 teaspoon basil 34 cup low-sodium chicken broth 5 tablespoons parmesan cheese Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste Prepare pasta according to package directions; drain. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook for one minute. Add tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Cook for 3 minutes. Add hot pasta to skillet; toss well. Add chicken broth and stir. Toss with parmesan cheese and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.- National Pasta AssociationFettucine provençal with seafood16 ounces fettuccine 14 cup olive oil 16 large shrimp, peeled and deveined 1 onion, finely chopped 3 cloves garlic, chopped 12 cup dry white wine 3 tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped 14 cup chopped basil 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional) 20 fresh mussels, cleaned 14 cup chopped parsley salt and pepper to taste Cook fettuccine according to package directions. In a large saucepan, heat oil; saute shrimp until just cooked, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove shrimp and set aside. To remaining oil in saucepan, add onions and garlic; saute until tender. Stir in wine; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add tomatoes, basil and red pepper flakes, if desired; cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add mussels, cover and simmer 5 to 7 minutes or until mussels open. Discard those that have not opened. Return shrimp to saucepan; heat through. Stir in parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss fettuccine with mussel mixture. Note: When buying mussels, test each one individually by tapping it lightly with your finger. Discard any mussels that remain open when they are tapped. To keep mussels alive before cooking, place in a bowl, cover with wet cloth and refrigerate. Serves 4.- Los Angeles Times


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