Italian Pasta Dinner

Pasta is the most flexible Italian food. While it is very popular here in the U.S., believe it or not it is far more popular in Italy. Pasta is mainly made from flour. However, various types of grain can also make pasta. In order to make pasta flour is mixed with water and often also combined with eggs. Once the mixture is complete, it is kneaded and rolled into a whole variety of shapes. The vast amount of pasta that is cooked is first boiled before served, however pasta can be baked, but before doing so it is usually boiled.

Pasta is very affordable and can be very satisfying. It is a starch, and while most Americans are familiar with the dried pasta that is in long thin rods- spaghetti, it can also come fresh and in practically any shape including shells, tubes, spiral, very thick noodles, etc.
Italians refer to all pastas as macaroni, however, here in the U.S. we usually refer to macaroni as small shell type shapes of pasta.

Pasta with Tomato Meat Sauce
-16 ounces of pasta (spaghetti)
-1 16 ounce jar of tomato sauce
-1-1 ½ pounds of hamburger meat
-1 onion
-Olive oil
-Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pan boil water to ¾ full and add a teaspoon of olive oil and some salt. Once the water boils add in the pasta and stir for a minute or two to ensure that it doesn’t adhere to the bottom. On a frying pan, add some oil and then add some hamburger meat along with a chopped onion. Cook the hamburger meat until medium or well done. In a sauce pan, add contents of tomato sauce. Let simmer on a low to medium flame. Do not cook the sauce fast, it will only scorch it and dry it out. Once all items are complete, mix all ingredients, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve hot. Yields about 4 servings.

Stuffed Shells in Tomato Sauce
Stuffed shells are a great way to make a meal out of pasta, cheese and tomato sauce. They are easy to prepare and can be cooked in about 20 minutes. Here is the recipe:

-1 16 ounce box of large pasta shells. (Make sure that the shells are already pre cooked and ready to be baked. If not, you will have to first boil them and then bake them.
-1 pound of ricotta cheese
-1 16 ounce jar of tomato sauce
- Side dishes that go well are spinach, green beans, mushrooms or a Greek Salad

Heat your oven to about 350 degrees. Fill the shells with ricotta cheese. Typically each shell can be stuffed with about 2 tablespoons of cheese. Once stuffed, place the shell on a baking sheet and cover the shell with foil. Cook for about 20 minutes. In a medium sauce pan with a low to medium flame simmer tomato sauce. Once complete spread shells with sauce. Other variations include adding meat to the sauce, spinach, etc.

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About The Author, Christine Steendahl
Christine Steendahl, "The Menu Mom", is known online for her popular meal planning programs. For her personal favorite stuffed shells recipe check out