Exploring Pasta-bilities: Celebrating National Spaghetti Day

Cassandra C. Poculan

EVERYONE has a favorite version of spaghetti and you probably have some in your fridge right now from the holidays. Although commonly served with meat or tomato sauce, meatballs and a generous sprinkling of grated cheese, there are so many other sauces worth coating those al dente noodles in.

In the spirit of National Spaghetti Day, here are four perfect pasta toppers for when you need to give red sauce a rest.

Sausage and Arugula

The peppery arugula makes all the difference in this dish. Spread out fennel, onions and small pieces of raw Italian sausage on a baking sheet. Roast in a preheated 220-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Mix roasted vegetables, sausage and cooked spaghetti in a large bowl. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil and reserved pasta water until the sauce comes together and coats the pasta. Toss in arugula and top with Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Spaghetti al Limone

This creamy lemon sauce straddles the line between rich and tangy. Finely grate lemon zest into a large pot. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze out two tablespoons of juice; set aside. Add heavy cream to pot with lemon zest and whisk in butter one tablespoon at a time until melted and sauce is emulsified. Throw in the spaghetti and add Parmesan little by little, until cheese is melted and sauce is creamy. Stir in reserved lemon juice and season with more salt, if needed. Season with pepper and top with lemon zest strips.

Herby Fully Loaded with garlic and green olives

Think of this as aglio e olio’s more vibrant cousin. Saute garlic until golden, fragrant and soft. Add parsley and cook until it releases some of its liquid and slightly darkens in color. Toss in pitted olives and red pepper flakes and let the flavors meld. Transfer pasta to pot with sauce and add butter and pasta water. Cook until each strand is coated. Remove from heat and toss in basil, lemon zest and lemon juice. Season with salt as needed and drizzle with more oil.

White Pesto

The best part about this pesto is that it doesn’t require a food processor or a mortar and pestle. Toast walnuts on a baking sheet until golden brown. Let cool, finely chop and then mix it with ricotta, lemon zest, garlic, oregano and Parmesan. Add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil at a time, stirring well every time until all the oil is incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. Add a cup of pasta water to the pesto before tossing it with the noodles. Mix until sauce clings to the pasta and serve with grated Parmesan.