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February 1, 2014

Culinary Conversation: Cook up some ‘little ears,’ ‘little worms’

NEW CASTLE — There are so many things to love about pasta.

It’s easy to cook and can be prepared in many versatile ways.

Today, Culinary Conversation presents five wonderful selections. The chicken Florentine not only features spinach, but there’s artichoke hearts and tomatoes, too — making a colorful, flavorful presentation.

Three-cheese baked ziti is a must-try with its blend of Parmesan, mozzarella and ricotta. The meatless lasagna pie is a perfect main dish for a crowd. Swiss cheese bundles use lasagna noodles, too. Fresh herb shrimp linguine is light and sounds like a cinch to make.

And think of all the different types — there’s fettucine, spaghetti and elbow macaroni, of course. Go beyond the basics to discover ditalini, gemelli, orzo and a whole bunch more that frequently have nicknames. Farfalle is also known as bowties, orecchiette is referred to as “little ears,” rotelle is “little wheel”, ziti are “bridegrooms” and vermicelli is “little worms.” That last one’s nickname doesn’t sound appetizing but I have yet to meet a pasta I didn’t like.

If pasta dishes are your thing, then this is the place to share them.

Chicken Florentine Bake

  • 8 ounces dried bow tie pasta
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4- to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 2 cups cooked chicken
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (8 ounces)
  • 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
  • 1/2 cup oil-packed dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup soft bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. In medium skillet, cook onion in 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat about 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; set aside.

In bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and crushed red pepper. Stir in chicken, Monterey Jack cheese, artichokes, spinach, tomatoes, half of the Parmesan, cooked pasta and onion. Transfer to a 13x9x2-inch baking dish or 3-quart rectangular casserole.

Bake, covered, for 20 minutes. In small bowl, combine remaining Parmesan, bread crumbs, paprika and melted butter. Sprinkle mixture over pasta. Bake, uncovered 10 minutes more or until golden brown.

Three-cheese Baked Ziti

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