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Super simple summer pasta ideas

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Summer is here and so are long beach days, lazy pool afternoons, and outdoor gatherings, but there is no need to run through the nearest, fast food drive thru. Instead, cook up a simple pan of pasta, loaded with healthy veggies and toppings. For picky eaters host a pasta bar and include a variety of fresh vegetables, cheeses, sauces, and lean meats for toppers. It's fun and everyone will be happy. Ask guests to bring a topping or a sauce to keep it easy on the cook. If you have gluten-free guests try having a brown rice pasta selection available.

Below are 10 simple combinations of toppers for summer pasta dishes that require only assembling and no real laborious cooking. They are quick, delicious and healthy.

Start with a brown rice pasta if the family is gluten-free or a whole grain pasta if not. Boil the pasta according to package instructions and salt the water. Drain and rinse the pasta. For cheese lovers, before adding anything to the drained pasta in the pan, mix in some parmesan cheese, Himalayan sea salt, and black pepper. It gives the pasta a great flavor, and the cheese sticks to the hot noodles.

Most of these toppers can be found at a local Trader Joe's or farm to market store. Try to buy organic vegetables whenever possible.

Summer pasta topper combinations:

  1. Sauteed garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and parmesan
  2. Roasted cherry tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, parmesan
  3. Roasted bell peppers, feta cheese, and black olives
  4. Bruschetta sauce from Trader Joe's and shaved parmesan
  5. Carmelized onions, toasted pine nuts, and gorgonzola
  6. Trader Joe's jar of pesto
  7. Mexicali pasta with chili or black beans, shredded sharp cheddar, diced avocado and a dollop of sour cream
  8. Roasted peppers, roasted cherry tomatoes with herbs and capers.
  9. Crushed red pepper, extra virgin olive oil and grated parmesan
  10. BBQ thin strips of steak, and chopped portobello mushrooms marinated in olive oil and garlic.

For perfectly roasted, summer vegetables (including tomatoes) see Ina Garten's roasting recipe posted on the Food Network, here. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/roasted-summer-vegetables....

For perfectly carmelized onions create white, onion rings by slicing them and pulling rings out. Pre-heat a pan on the stove with olive oil on low heat and half a cup of orange juice. Put onions in once liquid is hot. The idea is to cook these slowly until they are brown and caramel colored on the edges. Continue to stir onions every few minutes.

For variety surprise the family with different shaped pasta for a summer treat: springs, fusili, ziti, rigatoni, stars, wagon wheels, spaghetti, capellini, fettucine etc. The list can go on and on. Kids especially like elbows and bow ties.

Cheers to a healthy summer!

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