We eat a lot of pasta dishes in our house. It is very versatile and can be cooked with anything. You can eat it hot or cold, with any kind of sauce, any kind of meat and any kind of vegetables, or any combination thereof. To me, pasta is the perfect food that is perfect for any meal and any occasion. You can dress it up or dress it down and either way, it will always be a winner. Pasta is a dish that is considered universal comfort food no matter where you live or what your background. Pasta is very easy to make as well, with only a few basic ingredients. The basic recipe for making pasta really has not changed much at all through the centuries either. All you need to make the basic pasta recipe is flour, salt, 1 egg and water. Anything else is just extra. I do know how to make my own pasta, and yes, I have done it, but why? There are so many great pastas available to purchase, so it just doesn’t make sense to make my own, especially since time is always against me. Once you’ve made your basic pasta, you can cut it and shape it however you like.
When we think of pasta dishes, we tend to think of Italian dishes. But pasta was actually introduced to Europe back in the days of Marco Polo, when he came back from China and Asia, in the 13th century. Today, every almost country has their own version of pasta. In Germany and Hungary they have spaetzle. In Greeze, orzo. In Poland, they enjoy pocket-like pierogi. Ashkenazi Jewish families make kreplach dumplings, and these are just some of the many wonderful things you can create with pasta. The only thing to limit your creations is your imagination. The word pasta is an Italian word that means paste, which is another reason why we tend to think of it as an Italian delicacy, but the basic ingredients are found everywhere in the world and used in every culture, and has been pretty much since the beginning of time. Here in America, it was actually Thomas Jefferson who first introduced pasta to the States, but it really became popular in the late 19th century with the influx of Italian, German, Polish and Jewish immigrants who ate some form of pasta as a dietary staple.
As I mentioned above, we eat a lot of pasta. So, not only do I make the traditional pasta dishes we all known and love, but I am always creating something different too. This time, I was once again visited by the Queen of Leftovers, and was trying to be creative. I used my leftover pasta and ham that we took out of the freezer from the holidays and mixed them with vegetables and a creamy Alfredo Sauce. Christmas Eve Celebrations
Like with most things I make, there is no real set recipe, and as always, use what you like and leave out what you don’t like. I loaded mine up with vegetables because I LOVE all kinds of vegetables. I honestly can’t think of any vegetables I do not like, so we eat a wide variety, all the time. Often times I am really just trying to be creative with the bits and pieces I have leftover from other meals.
Pasta with Creamy Ham and Vegetable Sauce
1 1/2 lbs cooked ham, cut into strips
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 shallot, sliced very thin
1/2 crookneck or yellow squash, sliced
1/4 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1 cup frozen peas
2 cups spinach stems removed and chiffonade, or cut into thin strips
1 TBSP garlic
salt & pepper to taste
1 tsp each, dried thyme and sage
1/2 cup dry white wine
1-1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4-1/2 cup shredded Mozarella cheese
Saute the vegetables, except the spinach, garlic and seasonings in the olive oil until the peppers are tender and the shallots are translucent. Then remove the vegetables and set aside.
Add the wine to the skillet, bring to a boil, and let cook for about 1-2 minutes, or until the liquid has been reduced to about 1/2.
Then add the cream and the cheese and mix together thoroughly.
Once the sauce is mixed together, add the vegetables, ham and spinach, and combine everything together well.
Once everything is blended together and the sauce is done, serve it over your favorite pasta and enjoy with some warm bread and the same wine you used for your sauce. And dinner is served. Mangia!