Pasta Pleasers

If your family is strictly “meat and potatoes,” finding dairy recipes that will satisfy may present a challenge. Many people find dairy meals to be a lot less filling than fleishig, even if you serve fish. You may find yourself with your head in the refrigerator shortly after leaving the table — not great for those watching their weight.

To round out the meals, always include low-calorie soups and salads. Unless you are on a carb-free diet, pasta dishes are a good option. Pasta with vegetables is nourishing and need not be loaded with fat. You can even try the recipes with brown rice or whole wheat pasta for added fiber. Here are some ideas for you to try during the nine days.

Pasta and Mushrooms With Parmesan Crumb Topping

For the crumbs:

  • 3 cups panko crumbs
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/3 cup parsley, checked and chopped or 6 frozen cubes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

For the mushrooms:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 1/4 pounds fresh white mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, checked and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon porcini powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 pound farfalle (bowtie) pasta

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Butter a 9×13-inch pan or 3-quart glass or oven-to-tableware dish.

Spread out crumbs in a shallow baking pan and bake, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 6 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a rack, then toss with garlic, parsley, olive oil, pepper, and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese.

Heat butter and olive oil in a large heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté onion and garlic, stirring, until onion is golden, about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms along with oregano, parsley and porcini powder.

Season with salt, and pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the liquid the mushrooms give off is evaporated and mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes.

Stir in milk and simmer 1 minute.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a 6 quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until al dente. Drain in a colander, then transfer to baking dish and stir in mushroom mixture and remaining cheese.

Sprinkle bread topping evenly over pasta and bake, uncovered, until crumbs are golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

Spinach-Stuffed Shells

  • 32 jumbo pasta shells
  • 32 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 15 ounces ricotta or farmer cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup (about 4 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried, crumbled
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups marinara or spaghetti sauce, homemade or store-bought
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook pasta shells in 6 quarts boiling water for 10 minutes or just until al dente. Drain and rinse.

Squeeze spinach dry and place spinach in a large bowl. Add ricotta or farmer cheese, mozzarella, 1/2 cup Parmesan, nutmeg, basil and garlic to bowl. Stir in salt and pepper and mix well to blend all filling ingredients.

Spread 1/2 cup marinara sauce evenly over the bottom of 9×13-inch baking dish. Fill each pasta shell with 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons spinach mixture. Place shells, filling side up, in dish. Pour remaining marinara sauce over shells. Sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan. Cover loosely with foil and bake until heated through, about 40 minutes. Serve immediately.

Many ingredients are prone to infestation. Please consult a local Rav for specific guidelines on how to avoid transgressions related to insects.

Readers may submit questions to the Culinary Connoisseur, c/o Hamodia, 207 Foster Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11230 or via e-mail to This weekly column has been brought to you by The Peppermill, the world’s first kosher kitchenware store, located at 5015 16th Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. (718) 871-4022. You can also read a selection of previous columns in their comprehensive cookbook, The Culinary Connoisseur, available now at your local Judaica and kitchenware stores. Jam-packed with delicious recipes, insightful food information and helpful cooking tips, this book is certain to become your constant companion in the kitchen.