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Microwave . . .

Whipping Up Great Pasta Casserole With a Minimum of Time and Toil

July 27, 1989|JEAN ANDERSON and ELAINE HANNA | Anderson and Hanna are nutritionists and cookbook authors specializing in microwave cookery. and

With a microwave oven, you can whip up pasta casseroles and salads in almost no time, and you can certainly do it without any sweat or swelter. We're not recommending that you actually boil pasta in a microwave oven, mind you. That job is best done on top of the stove.

But once the pasta is cooked, it can be stirred into a casserole that microwaves to perfection. Or tossed with fresh vegetables and a quick microwave dressing, then served as a cool main-course salad.

Our macaroni-and-cheese casserole requires only four minutes of preparation time and microwaves in less than 20 minutes. If you like a crusty brown top, you can either sprinkle crushed cornflakes over the top or brown it under the broiler after it is removed from the microwave.

Because the saltiness of Cheddar cheese varies, taste the macaroni mixture before you microwave it, increasing the amount of salt as needed.

MACARONI AND CHEESE

1/2 pound elbow macaroni

1/4 cup butter or margarine

1 tablespoon finely grated onion

1/4 cup flour

2 1/2 cups milk

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon prepared spicy brown mustard

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Salt

2 1/2 cups coarsely shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

1/4 cup crushed cornflakes, optional

Cook macaroni in large saucepan according to package directions.

Meanwhile, combine butter and onion in 2 1/2-quart 3-inch-deep casserole. Cover with wax paper and microwave on HIGH (100% power) 55 to 65 seconds until butter melts. Blend in flour and microwave, uncovered, on HIGH 30 seconds until foamy.

Gradually stir in milk. Add Worcestershire, mustard and pepper. Season to taste with salt. Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 minutes, stirring every 1 1/2 minutes, until sauce boils and thickens.

Mix in 2 cups cheese. Microwave, uncovered, on MEDIUM (50% power) 2 to 2 1/2 minutes until cheese is completely melted. Drain cooked macaroni well and fold into cheese mixture, spreading evenly in casserole. Cover with lid or vented plastic wrap and microwave on MEDIUM 5 to 6 minutes, stirring at half time, until hot.

Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese, cover with wax paper and let stand 2 to 3 minutes to melt cheese. Sprinkle with crushed cornflakes. Makes 4 servings.

Note: If cornflakes are omitted, increase cheese topping to 3/4 cup, transfer casserole to preheated broiler and broil 3 inches from heat 2 to 3 minutes until lightly browned.

FUSILLI, TOMATOES AND ROASTED GREEN PEPPERS WITH BASIL AIOLI

1 pound fusilli

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large green peppers

4 large cloves garlic, unpeeled

1 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons minced fresh basil

Dash sugar

Dash ground cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Salt

12 cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

Cook fusilli in large pot according to package directions and drain well. Toss pasta with olive oil in large serving bowl and set aside.

Place green peppers in plastic bag, tie ends, set on oven floor and microwave on HIGH (100% power) 3 to 4 minutes. Turn bag over and rotate 180 degrees.

Wrap garlic in paper towels and place in oven beside peppers. Microwave on HIGH 3 to 4 minutes until peppers are slightly tender and garlic very tender.

Allow peppers and garlic to stand 5 minutes. Remove peppers from bag and cool under cold tap water. Peel, seed, pat dry on paper toweling and dice. Squeeze garlic from skins into food processor. Add mayonnaise, basil, sugar and cayenne and pulse 6 to 8 times until creamy.

Add 3/4 cup garlic mixture to pasta along with diced peppers. Add black pepper and season to taste with salt, tossing well. Add tomatoes and toss gently.

If pasta seems dry, add remaining basil mixture and toss lightly. Serve at once or cover and let stand 30 minutes at room temperature before serving. Makes 4 servings.

Note: In ovens of less than 600 watts, increase cooking times about 15%.

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