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Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Pasta saves the day again

Thursday, May 27, 1999

Versatile pasta is the main ingredient around which many Countdown recipes are built. And no wonder. It's cheap, easy to keep on hand and almost impossible to ruin.

What you mix it with can make it memorable.

Mary Tambellini sent us a recipe combining Spaghetti With Bacon & Peas which she clipped from Better Homes & Gardens.

"It's a quick, tasty dish," she said. "My kids (ages 12, 15, 17) really like it and that usually is a good sign for me."

We found it very tasty indeed. The ricotta, onion, Parmesan and bacon melded into a flavorful sauce -- a pleasant change from traditional tomato-based -- and the peas added color.

Tambellini admits she's not a big fan of peas, but adds that tiny petite peas are perfect for this dish. Sometimes she eliminates the vegetable altogether.

A Mount Lebanon resident, Tambellini tests all kinds of recipes for her family, which includes husband Ron, whose father owns the Bridgeville Tambellini's restaurant, and her home-based business, Menu Magic.

"My job is to help people find their favorite recipes, create recipes that suit their family cooking style and plan and select menus and recipes for all occasions" she said.

Mom's dexterity in the kitchen has rubbed off on her youngest child, who has been cooking since he was 10.

"My son is a good cook, very creative," she said proudly. "He can make a lovely looking Saturday morning breakfast or a great marinara sauce with tortellini for dinner."

Although the dish came in at just under 30 minutes, if we hadn't used ready cooked bacon that only needed to be warmed in the skillet, it might have gone over the limit.

This is the second Countdown recipe from Tambellini. Her Meatball Soup last fall found many fans and we're sure today's will, too. -- Tested by Nancy Anderson

Spaghetti With Bacon & Peas

4 slices bacon
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 pound thin spaghetti or vermicelli
1 cup packaged frozen petite peas
1 15-ounce container part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare pasta in boiling salted water as label directs. Meanwhile, in 12-inch skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until browned. Transfer to paper towels. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat from skillet. Add onion and cook until tender and golden, 8 to 10 minutes. During last two minutes of pasta cooking time, add frozen peas.

When pasta is cooked to desired doneness, remove 1 cup pasta cooking water. Drain pasta and peas. Return to saucepan and toss with ricotta, Parmesan, onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper and reserved pasta cooking water. Crumble in bacon and toss again. Serves 4.

Do you have an entrée, salad or vegetable side dish recipe (no desserts, please!) that can be made in 30 minutes or less from six ingredients or fewer (not counting water, salt and pepper)? Share it with Countdown to Dinner.

If we select your recipe for publication, you'll receive a free selection from our cookbook grab bag of current releases.

Send your recipe to Countdown to Dinner, Post-Gazette Food, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or fax to 412-263-1313. Please include your name, neighborhood and daytime phone number. Or e-mail to: nanderson@post-gazette.com Questions? Call 412-263-1760.

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