There’s no denying that there are few things as wonderful as a big bowl of al dente spaghetti topped with bright red tomato sauce or vibrant green basil pesto — or a heaping pile of fettucine noodles coated in creamy white alfredo sauce. If you have spaghetti marinara once a week, every week, you’ll start to wish for something else to wake up your palate. Luckily, pasta is the perfect foundation for many unique and flavorful dishes.
Click here to see the 9 Things You Never Thought to Add to Pasta (Slideshow)
It may be easy to simply boil a box of dried pasta and top it with a jar of premade sauce, but there are a number of other equally easy ways to flavor your noodles. Good quality pasta needs little more than a drizzle of olive oil or melted butter and a sprinkle of coarse salt, making it easy to customize the dish according to your taste, budget, or pantry; just about anything you have on hand can be used to make a flavorful pasta dish.
Though the possibilities are nearly endless, some pasta toppings are better than others. It helps to think about ingredients that can imitate the qualities of popular pasta sauces (creamy ingredients like soft cheese make a great substitute for milk- or cream-based sauces) or ingredients that pair well in starch-based, non-pasta dishes (like a coconut milk and curry sauce that would typically be served alongside bread or rice). Taking advantage of these tried-and-true combinations take some of the guesswork out of creating a unique pasta dish — and can save you time in the kitchen.
While we wholly encourage you to walk into your kitchen, take a look at what you have on hand, and start adding delicious ingredients to cooked pasta (we’re sure you’ll be surprised by what you can create), we also have a few ideas to get you started.
Avocado makes an amazingly creamy pasta sauce — no milk, cream, or cheese needed. It’s perfect for anyone trying to eat more heart-healthy fats or cut down on dairy products. This recipe for spaghetti with avocado sauce uses a combination of vegetable broth, leeks, avocado, and lemon juice to create a simple and delicious pasta sauce.
If you love a hearty spaghetti Bolognese, you’ll love “Cincinnati-Style chili” — a.k.a. chili-topped spaghetti. Though the traditional version uses a variety of spices in the chili itself, you can feel free to make the chili to your liking; it will still be delicious!
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.