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Macaroni as a Mellow Midweek Meal

October 27, 1994|BEV BENNETT

Although weeknight cooking is about as popular as grocery shopping at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning, it's sometimes unavoidable. But with a little planning, a weeknight meal can be a delightful, healthy and relaxing alternative to either eating out or dialing for dinner.

Pasta, which every cook should have by the cupboardful, is the base for an effortless meal. The simplest pasta dinners are spaghetti with a little olive oil and seasonings. Crushed red pepper flakes, garlic and cheese all enhance the basics.

In the following recipe, bucatini , a sort of thick macaroni, is tossed with cheese, bacon and crushed red pepper flakes. The pasta must be tossed quickly and vigorously, or the cheese will clump into a hard, unappetizing mass. If this happens, add a little milk or cream to the pan and cook over low heat until the cheese blends in.

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Look for fresh spinach, available triple-rinsed and packed in plastic food bags so it doesn't require additional rinsing. It makes a quick salad. Add oil and vinegar, or be extravagant and flavor spinach with walnuts, soy sauce and sugar as well.

SPINACH-WALNUT SALAD

2 packed cups torn spinach, stems removed

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

2 to 3 teaspoons rice wine vinegar

2 to 3 teaspoons oil

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

Combine spinach and walnuts in salad bowl. Toss to mix.

Stir together soy sauce, sugar, 2 teaspoons vinegar and 2 teaspoons oil in cup. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour over spinach mixture and toss gently but well. If more dressing is desired, add remaining 1 teaspoon vinegar and oil. Makes 2 servings.

BUCATINI WITH BACON, CHEESE AND PEPPER

1/2 pound bucatini or spaghetti

Salt

1/4 pound bacon

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Freshly ground pepper

Cook bucatini in large pan of boiling, salted water according to package directions until tender.

Meanwhile cook bacon in large skillet until crisp. Remove bacon and drain on paper-towel-lined plate. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon fat.

When pasta is done, spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons cooking liquid into skillet with fat. Drain pasta well and add to skillet. Add cheese, red pepper flakes and crumbled bacon. Toss well and fast so cheese doesn't clump up. Season generously to taste with pepper and lightly with salt. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

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