Familiar formulas need not be boring. Certainly not that almost foolproof vegetarian standby, pasta.
Boiling water is the basic effort called for. After that, pasta is easily, infinitely variable. Its an ideal starting point for creative tinkering, pretty well guaranteed to please most diners with wonderfully little real extra work.
Perfect example: Whole-wheat spaghetti with hazelnuts and asparagus is a simply distinctive dish to make for a vegetarian entree in 20 minutes flat.
The whole-wheat spaghetti is super nutritious. Hazelnuts are a crunchy surprise (although pine nuts may be used if thats more convenient for the cook). What makes the dish even more special is a favorite spring ingredient, asparagus shaved into long ribbons.
The recipe is from the June issue of Real Simple magazine, in the monthly feature offering recipes and strategies for weeknight dinners.
The editors give us a tip with this recipe, for toasting the hazelnuts: Place them on a baking sheet in a 350 F oven until theyre barely browned and fragrant, 7 to 12 minutes. To remove the skins, transfer the hot nuts to a large kitchen towel, fold one end over the nuts and rub briskly.
with Hazelnuts and Asparagus
(Hands on time 15 minutes, start to finish 20 minutes)
12 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and roughly chopped (or substitute pine nuts)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 small wedge (about 2 ounces) Parmesan cheese
Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions. Meanwhile, with a vegetable peeler, shave the asparagus lengthwise into long ribbons. Add the asparagus to the pasta water during the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain the spaghetti and asparagus and return them to the pot. Add the oil and hazelnuts; toss. Season with the salt and pepper; toss again. Divide the spaghetti among individual plates. With the peeler, shave the Parmesan over the top.
Makes 4 servings.