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Countdown to Dinner: Soups make pasta dish a quick stir in the pot

Thursday, November 08, 2001

By Betsy Kline, Post-Gazette Staff Writer


Many a fast and filling meal has poured out of soup can, and today's Countdown entry illustrates how easy life can be when all you need is a pot, a pan and a can opener.

Ida Tenor of Squirrel Hill sent us this recipe for her easy Tomato Cheese Pasta. It's a filling, soothing main dish perfect for delicate tummies that balk at the acidity of tomato-based sauces. You can perk it up with additional seasonings, or with her favorite -- frozen vegetables added to directly to the pasta water.

Ida's a pro at improvisation, using whatever is on hand in the kitchen to make quick, satisfying meals for one. At 91, she's still keenly interested in cooking, watching her favorite cooking shows every day and thinking up different ways to tweak her from-scratch recipes. She's quick to share her tips for a moister, fluffy turkey stuffing (grated carrots and Rice Krispies!), apple pie (apple jelly melted into butter and folded into the apples) or a juicy salmon fillet (saute, then steam).

Her only frustration, the mother of two and grandmother of three admits, is that her opportunities to cook for others have dwindled. Evening meals are served at the senior citizen center where she lives, and when family members come to visit, they always insist on treating her to meals out.

But she remains undaunted. Breakfast and lunch still provide opportunities to flex her culinary creativity. She still makes a mean noodle kugel and her freezer is always stocked with homemade chicken soup. Life is good, says Ida, and we believe her.

Tomato Cheese Pasta

1 pound pasta, thin spaghetti or other
1 can condensed cheese soup
1 can condensed tomato soup
1/2 can of milk for each soup can
1/4 cup butter or oil
Parmesan cheese, to taste

Cook pasta according to directions. While the pasta is cooking, mix soups together. Rinse each soup can with 1/2 can milk. Pour into cheese-tomato mixture and blend well. Cook over medium heat, stirring until smooth and bubbly.

Drain but do not rinse pasta. Add butter to the pot and return pasta to pot. Add tomato-cheese mixture and mix well. Put grated Parmesan cheese on the table for sprinkling on individual servings. Serve with a packaged Caesar salad. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

If a thinner sauce is desired, add extra milk.

To add vegetables, run a small carton of frozen vegetables under hot water for a few minutes. Add to the pasta water about 3 minutes before it's done. Broccoli or peas go well. Drain along with pasta and proceed as above.

Do you have an entree, 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.

The PG tests all recipes and 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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