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Everyday food: Got penne?

03/19/2013 12:19 PM

03/20/2013 5:12 AM

Make pasta, pronto: Stock up on boxes of versatile penne, and you'll always be ready to fix a crowd-pleasing dinner.

Creamy roasted garlic penne

3 heads garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 sprigs thyme

3/4 pound penne

1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano

2 tablespoons cream

Salt and pepper

1 small bunch watercress, trimmed

1. Trim the top thirds off heads of garlic. Set garlic on parchment-lined foil, drizzle with olive oil, top with thyme, and wrap. Roast at 400 degrees for 1 hour. Meanwhile, cook penne, reserving 3/4 cup pasta water. Squeeze garlic out of skins and add to a skillet along with pasta water and grated Pecorino Romano. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thick and creamy. Stir in cream and penne. Season with salt and pepper, and top with watercress.

Tuna, caper and basil penne

3/4 pound penne

1/2 cup capers

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

1/4 cup olive oil

2 6-ounce cans tuna, drained

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Salt and pepper

1 cup chopped basil leaves

1. Cook penne, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, saute capers and lemon zest in olive oil for 1 minute. Add tuna and cook until heated through. Add penne, pasta water and lemon juice, and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, and stir in chopped basil leaves.

Roasted tomato and pancetta penne

2 pints cherry tomatoes

1 thinly sliced large red onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper

4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta

3/4 pound penne

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss tomatoes with onion, olive oil and red pepper flakes; season with salt and pepper, and top with pancetta. Roast at 450 degrees until tomatoes burst, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once. Meanwhile, cook penne, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water. Toss penne with tomato mixture, parsley and pasta water; season with salt and pepper.

Penne with spinach pesto

3/4 pound penne

8 ounces spinach, trimmed

1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1/4 cup olive oil

1 garlic clove

Salt and pepper

Ricotta, for serving

1. Cook penne, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water. Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse together spinach, walnuts, Parmesan, olive oil and garlic. Toss spinach mixture with penne and pasta water; season with salt and pepper. Top with ricotta.

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