Mention pasta and everyone's minds turns to spaghetti, maybe linguine or angel hair if they're
a bit more sophisticated. Yet there's a whole selection of mini pastas that pack great flavor. Use these with traditional sauce for a tasty hot dish or in salads for a cool side at a barbecue or tailgate party.
Pasta comes in many shapes and sizes. The smaller sized varieties can be turned into any dish. A favorite is acine de pepe, translated grains of pepper in Italian. .These are basically spaghetti minced into small pieces. It's a wonderful alternative to the star shaped pastina and cooks up into fat little kernels.It's great in any broth such as vegetable, beef or chicken, Put more than a cup in and it makes a filling dinner. To turn it into it more substantial serve it with any sauce that would go with spaghetti or ravioli. It makes a nice meal for one, especially served in a butter sauce with a sprinkle of Parmesan. Serve it with marinara and meatballs for a fun kid's meal.Acine de pepe can also be used in soups and is a staple in the classic Italian wedding soup. It can also grace minestrone too and be a nice change of pace in a chicken noodle soup. The little pasta bits can be used in a salad for a spin. Try it with sliced grape tomatoes and parsley for a nice side with burgers or grilled steak. Mix it with tuna, chopped celery and onions for a twist on the classic tuna salad.Acine de pepe can also be used in fruit salads with pineapple chunks and orange wedges.
Orzo is another mini pasta that can be served hot or cold.It comes from the Latin hordeum or barley and can be the base of many dishes.It can be a main dish or a side.Many home chefs use it instead of rice as the Greeks do, and it's usually the base of many pilafs. Try it with Parmesan and basil for a quick and tasty dinner.It's made similar to the way risotto is cooked. Saute the raw pasta in butter until lightly browned and then add the chicken broth.It can also be turned into a variation of risotto Milanese with the addition of saffron.Orzo is perfect paired with chicken and blends well with any green veggie such as spinach and broccoli. The orzo grains are also a fun change in any soup that calls for noodles. Even add it to tomato soup for a nice surprise.Like acine de pepe, it can also make for a great cold salad. Try it Greek style with sliced cucumbers,kalamata olives and crumbled feta cheese.Artichoke hearts, parsley, and lemon juice are also added to make for a lively flavor.For a colorful side make a checkerboard orzo salad with goat cheese and cubed tomatoes.A truly filling orzo salad is one made Nicoise style with tuna in oil, artichoke hearts and arugula. Red onions and bell peppers are also tossed into the mix for color and bite.
Mini pastas such as acine de pepe and orzo are little pastas that guarantee big flavors. They are fun and versatile,perfect for any main meal or side. Try them and see what a big impact they'll make.