Quick Vegan Cooking with Pasta
Sometimes vegan cooking can be a bit time consuming but there are ways to make a nourishing dinner that is not time consuming and frustrating to make. An essential ingredient, pasta, can work wonders. Pasta is tasty, fast and economical, too! Coordinate your dinner and you can have it on the table in a mere 15 minutes!
Hot Pasta Tips:
Never skimp on water because the pasta needs to be able to "move around" while it is cooking, otherwise it will stick together - and be a mess to work with. A good standard to follow is to use about five quarts of water for each pound of pasta.
Be sure to use a pot large enough to accomodate five quarts of water. A seven or eight quart pot should do the job. In addition, never fill the pot to the brim with water as you need to leave room for the boiling lest you boil half of the water all over your stove top!
Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to add oil to cooking pasta. If you use enough water and stir the pasta occasionally while it is cooking, your pasta will not stick together. This helps you reduce calories as well.
Invest in a good pasta strainer.
When you are cooking your pasta, cover the pot. This speeds up the cooking time saving you a few minutes and even a little electricity or gas! Bring the water to a rolling boil first, add your pasta, allow the water to come to its second boiling point, reduce the heat and allow it to simmer until it reaches the desired texture.
Test dried pasta after five minutes of cooking and fresh, home made pasta after about three minutes. The result you are seeking is up to you, but do try to keep it on the chewy side because the pasta will continue to cook for about a minute after you have removed it from the stove and drain it.
Fresh pasta cooks the fastest. Semolina flour pasta, which is the type found in supermarkets, takes a little longer. Whole wheat and vegetable pastas (those that contain spinach or carrots or tomatoes, etc) take the longest. However, none of the aforementioned pastas takes more than ten minutes to cook.
When straining your pasta, reserve some of the cooking water as there is starch in that water, which makes a great addition to sauces and soups as a thickener.
It is not necessary to rinse your pasta. If you did cook your pasta in enough water, gently pour it into your strainer -- it should not stick. The starch on the outside of the pasta allows sauces to stick to it so you do not wish to rinse that all away. A good idea when using a sauce is to have the sauce warmed and ready to pour over the pasta immediately after straining it. Hot pasta is the best companion for warm sauce. There is one exception to this rule: If you are using the pasta for a cold salad, do rinse it. The longer the pasta sits, the stickier it becomes.
Fresh and Dried Pasta
You can find fresh pasta in the refrigerated section of your supermarket. Fresh pasta only needs to be heated, not cooked, because it never went through a drying process. Pasta that has gone through the drying pasta needs to be reconstituted.
Pasta Dish Ideas
- Toss cooked pasta and sauce, sprinkle with seasoned breadcrumbs, and bake
- Toss pasta and sauce with canned, drained beans and chopped onions
- Toss pasta with salsa and chopped olives
- Toss pasta with margarine, chopped parsley, and garlic powder
- Toss pasta with margarine, cooked frozen mixed veggies, and tomato sauce or salsa
Delving Deeper into Pasta
If you feel you have mastered the "art" of cooking regular pasta, perhaps you would like to take things one step further. Asian pasta, called soba and udon, are chewy pastas and make a wonderful base for a meal.
Buckwheat flour is the essential ingredient in soba noodles; wheat flour and water are the essential ingredients in udon. You can serve both hot or cold, and you cook them just as you cook spaghetti. Some suggested uses are:
- Tossed with soy sauce
- Tossed with fresh or dried ginger
- Tossed with chopped garlic
- Toss with sesame seeds
- Heat some vegetable broth, add fresh or canned mushrooms and make your own noodle bowl.
If you would like to try something more delicate, try Bean Thread Noodles. (Also known as cellophane noodles for their translucent appearance). Bean threads essential ingredient is mung bean flour. You can soften them by soaking them briefly in warm water. Check the time because different brands reconstitute at varying rates. None should take more than five minutes. This type of noodle is excellent when boiled in hot broth. Another variation, called rice sticks, are a bit starchier than bean threads. Varieties range from extremely thing to extremely thick. Soften in warm water; drop in soups and broths -- or, use your imagination!
Quick Cooking Sauce Ideas:
- Add chopped, canned tomatoes to canned pizza sauce.
- Add drained, canned beans (such as white or garbanzo) to canned pizza sauce.
- Combine drained, canned beans, chopped, canned tomatoes, and Italian seasoning.
- Add drained, canned mushrooms to thawed, drained, chopped frozen spinach; add enough vegetable stock to moisten, and heat.