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Pasta with bread crumbs

September 10, 2008|By BEVERLY MILLS, with ALICIA ROSS

8 ounces short pasta of choice, such as penne or rotini
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided use
1 heaping tablespoon bottled minced garlic
1 cup coarse-textured, soft (not toasted) breadcrumbs (see Cook's note)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/3 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, optional garnish

Bring 2 1/2 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil in a covered 4-1/2-quart Dutch oven or soup pot. When the water reaches a rapid boil, add the pasta and cook just until tender, according to the package directions.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Add 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Add the garlic, breadcrumbs, oregano and salt to the skillet, and stir to coat the crumbs with the butter mixture. Cook, stirring frequently, until the crumbs are crisp and golden brown, about 6 to 10 minutes. (The exact time will depend on the moisture content of the crumbs.) After stirring, shake the skillet to distribute the crumbs evenly in the bottom of the skillet. When the crumbs are toasted, remove the skillet from the heat. Set aside.

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When the pasta is done, drain it into a colander, shaking to remove as much water as possible. Pour into a large serving bowl. Drizzle the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil over the pasta, and toss to distribute the oil. Add the Parmesan cheese, and toss well. (See Cook's note about additional stir-ins.) Wait until immediately before serving to add the breadcrumbs to the pasta so they will stay crisp, and then toss well to distribute the crumbs. Serve at once, garnished with a sprinkle of parsley, if desired.

Cook's notes: Coarse breadcrumbs -- such as crumbs made from whole-grain or European-style breads -- work best. We don't like extra-fine store-bought crumbs for this recipe.

Leftover cooked chicken, pork tenderloin and shrimp or steamed vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots or asparagus, are good additions. Cut into bite-size pieces, warm in the microwave, then stir into the pasta along with cheese.

Serves 4 as entrees, or 6 as side-dish servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 342 calories (29 percent from fat), 11 g fat (5 g saturated), 21 mg cholesterol, 12 g protein, 50 g carbohydrates, 2 g dietary fiber, 307 mg sodium.

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