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I avoid recipes that waste food. For example, vegetable-stock recipes always tell you to chop up some carrots, celery, and onions and simmer them in a pot of water. So far, so good. I’d just stop there and call it soup. But then they want you to throw away the vegetables and keep the water.
For years, I rarely made pasta, because the standard cooking method is to boil the pasta in a whole bunch of water and then pour everything into a colander and let the water run down the drain – the mirror image of the vegetable-stock recipe. I figure the water must have picked up some water-soluble vitamins and minerals while the pasta was cooking, so it seems a shame to waste what might be called pasta broth. Besides, I really hate carrying that big pot of boiling-hot water across the kitchen to the sink.
But then Hubby experimented and found that if he cooked pasta with just the right amount of water, everything would come out even. His method is very simple: Measure out your pasta and heat a more-or-less equal measure of water in a covered pan. When the water comes to a good boil, add the pasta and stir. Reduce the heat to keep the water at a low boil. Keep the pan covered, and stir the pasta frequently. When most of the water has been absorbed and there’s only enough of it left to make the bottom of the pan shiny, turn off the heat. (If you’re using an electric stove, you may need to move the pan off the burner.) Let the pasta sit covered for ten or fifteen minutes, then stir again and serve immediately.
It’s almost like cooking rice, except that you need to stir frequently. Like rice, if pasta cooked this way sits too long after it’s done, it will clump together into one big lump. I suspect that this could be prevented by stirring in a little oil (or an oily dressing for pasta salad) as soon as the pasta is ready.
We’ve used this method for whole-wheat pasta and (since I started the Blood Type Diet) also for brown-rice pasta. We use two cups of pasta and right around two cups of water, but the amount of water varies slightly, depending on the brand of pasta and also on the type – for example, Tinkyada penne needs a little more water than Tinkyada elbows. I always test a piece when I turn the heat off, and if it’s a little too al dente, I just dump in a little more water.
One of my favorite ways to use the cooked pasta is in a casserole that I adapted from a recipe that I got from Mom. The original has ten ingredients (including several that have long ingredient lists of their own, such as canned soup, margarine, and worcestershire sauce) and calls for cooking several combinations of ingredients separately before assembling the casserole. My simplified version has only six ingredients, all of which are basic foods. This would be a good dish for a mixed-blood-type family, because all of the ingredients are at least BTD-neutral for everyone (to check the Blood Type Diet ratings for any food, click the TYPEbase button at the left side of this site’s home page). It requires pre-cooking only the pasta – and most important, we like it just as well as Mom’s original. Here’s my recipe (please note that none of the measurements need to be all that precise):
10-ounce (285 grams) package frozen spinach
2 cups (475 ml) rice macaroni (8 ounces or 225 grams)
2 ounces (55 grams) celery (1/2 cup or 120 ml)
15-ounce (425 gm) can of (great) northern beans (about 1-1/2 cup or 355 ml drained)
2 Tablespoons (30 ml) ghee
3/4 teaspoon (4 ml) salt
Thaw the spinach (spreading it out on a cookie sheet will speed things up). Cook the macaroni in a large saucepan.
Rinse and drain the beans. Cut the celery into thin slices. Put the beans, celery, ghee, and salt into the blender or food processor with enough water to almost cover them, and process till smooth.
Add the thawed spinach and the bean sauce to the cooked macaroni (which is why you need that large pan) and mix thoroughly. Pack into an oiled 8” x 8” (20 cm x 20 cm) baking pan and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 40 minutes. Let it sit for a few minutes after baking to firm up, then cut into squares and serve.
We consider this a nice one-dish dinner for two people. If you fancy up the meal with a fruit appetizer (for example) and/or a carrot dish, the casserole will serve more people.
The original recipe called for onions, but they mess up my nerves, so I use celery (which makes a surprisingly good substitute). If you decide to add onions, you might want to saute them in the ghee, then either puree them with the beans or just stir them into the pasta with everything else.
For a prettier casserole, you could mix some bread crumbs with ghee and sprinkle them over the top before baking. (But I’ve never done this.)
This casserole holds well in a warm (not hot) oven if you can’t serve it right away, though the top layer of macaroni becomes chewier (which some people like and some people don’t).