March is National Noodle Month. It’s hard to imagine a food more simple—or more versatile—than noodles. After all, they start with nothing more than two ingredients: flour and water. But then, the sky’s the limit! Add eggs, herbs or puréed vegetables to the dough, roll it into thin sheets and layer with cheese and sauce in lasagna. Cut the sheets into thin or fat strips, cook the fresh noodles or dry them for longer storage, or cut the sheets into rounds or squares to wrap a tasty dumpling filling in. Use a machine to form the dough into all kinds of shapes, from hats to wheels to bow-ties, then bake, boil, sauté or deep-fry. The pasta-bilities are endless!
One of the great things about noodles is their versatility—perhaps that’s why noodles are found across the globe, from steamy tropical countries to colder European climates. When temperatures rise, cold noodles are refreshing in salads or with a citrusy ponzu dipping sauce; in the colder months, noodle soups and stir-fries or a hearty noodle casserole will warm you up quickly.
Noodles are true culinary chameleons, adapting easily to the flavor palettes and agricultural products of every country. In Northern Europe and America, noodle dishes go hearty, incorporating butter, cheese and other dairy products—think of the classic macaroni and cheese casserole. In the dairy-rich north of Italy, pasta also gets the butter, cheese and cream treatment or is served with a Bolognese meat sauce, while in southern Italy, pasta is sauced with local tomatoes and olive oil. In Asia, the savory umami richness of soy sauce and fish sauce, the tang of citrus and rice vinegar, the sting of hot chiles and the sweetness of sugar all play a role in seasoning noodle dishes.
Here are a couple of hot and cold noodle dishes to try:
Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)
1 pound fresh or thawed large shrimp or prawns in shells (21 to 25 count)
6 ounces angel hair pasta, broken in half
3 cups fresh vegetables, such as halved pea pods, sliced carrots, bite-size broccoli florets and/or red bell pepper strips
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup Kikkoman Teriyaki Marinade & Sauce
1 tablespoon Kikkoman Rice Vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1. Peel and devein shrimp. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente, adding vegetables during last 1 minute of cooking.
3. Drain pasta mixture. Return to pan; cover and keep warm.
4. Heat oil over medium heat in large skillet. Add shrimp. Cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until shrimp turn pink.
5. Stir in teriyaki sauce, vinegar and crushed red pepper. Heat through.
6. Pour shrimp mixture over pasta mixture; toss to combine. Serve immediately.
Sesame Ponzu Pasta Salad (served cold)
Ingredients (Makes 10 servings)
1 16 ounce pkg bow tie pasta
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2/3 cup Kikkoman Lime Ponzu
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup green onions, chopped
Cook pasta according to package directions, rinse under cold water and drain. Transfer to a large bowl. In a medium bowl combine olive oil, sesame seeds, sesame oil, Lime Ponzu, sugar, and ginger. Stir well to combine. Pour dressing over pasta, gently mix in cilantro and green onions.
Next week: Noodles Around the World