Mary’s Memo #2131


Italy is not the birthplace of pasta as most people think. Historians credit the Chinese with making a rice noodle as early as 1700 BC. However, the Italians were major players in the evolution of pasta as we know it. As early as 400 BC Italians had a noodle similar to lasagna. But it was Arab traders, not Italians, who boiled the pasta. Wanting something hot at the end of the day, they combined the noodles with boiling water. Arabs brought this food with them to Sicily during the 8th century invasion. Before long the city of Palermo was producing large quantities of pasta. But it was Naples where technology was developed to mass produce it. This success brought Naples out of an economic depression.

Italians ate pasta plain or sprinkled with cheese. It wasn't until 1839 that a tomato sauce was mentioned. Later a variety of pasta shapes were introduced.

Although Thomas Jefferson introduced pasta to America in the late 1700's, it didn't become widely popular until Italians immigrated to America in 1800-1900, bringing their pasta with them.

Pasta is as popular as ever, probably because it's nutritious, very affordable and a good meat extender, just what we need in this troubled economy! Whole wheat pasta is the "newest kid on the block" and I use it whenever I can although some dishes are better with the regular kind. Most of us keep a variety of pasta on hand, another attribute being its long shelf life.

So we're celebrating National Pasta Month with recipe favorites of mine.


1 8-ounce package medium noodles
1 stick butter, divided
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon flour (5 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 cups milk (whatever kind you use)
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
2 5-ounce cans tuna fish canned in water, well drained
1/2 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed olives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 1/2 cups (6-ounces) shredded Muenster cheese (you can also substitute another cheese, preferably a reduced-fat kind)
1/2 cup buttered crumbs

Cook noodles; drain. Melt 5 tablespoons butter in medium saucepan. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly. Stir in milk. Continue cooking, stirring until sauce has thickened and boils 1 minute. Slice cream cheese into sauce and stir until melted. Add drained tuna, olives, chives and Muenster cheese. Mix with noodles and spoon into 2-quart casserole. Melt remaining butter and combine with 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs. Bake in 325F oven until bubbly (about 45 minutes). Recipe makes 6 servings.

Since it's also National Pork Month, our next recipe combines bulk pork sausage with uncooked macaroni to make an easy top-of-stove, one dish meal. Just add a salad and fruit dessert for a wholesome combination.


1 pound bulk sausage
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced green bell pepper
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 1/4 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Saute sausage, onion and green bell pepper together. Drain off drippings. Add tomatoes, uncooked macaroni, buttermilk, sugar, chili powder, salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat. Reduce temperature and simmer an additional 20 minutes or until pasta is tender. Recipe makes 6 servings.


An animal study at Purdue University has shown that adding ascorbic acid and sugar to green tea can help the body absorb helpful compounds and also demonstrates the effectiveness of a model that can reduce the number of animals needed for these types of studies. Mario Ferruzzi, associate professor of food science and nutrition, adapted a digestion model with human intestinal cells to show that adding ascorbic acid to green tea would increase the absorbability of catechins, a class of polyphenols (antioxidants), common in tea, cocoa and grapes. Antioxidants are thought to fight heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and other health problems.

"This model may be used as a pre-emptive screening tool at very little cost before you do expensive tests on animals and humans," said Ferruzzi, whose findings were published in the early online edition of the journal Food Research International. "If you want to get human screening off the ground, it takes months. If you use this model, it takes hours."

Ferruzzi urges consumers to add lemon or citrus juice to their tea. "Having the vitamin C seems to do it," Ferruzzi said, "and if you don't want to squeeze a lemon into your cup just have a glass of juice with your green tea or look for ready-to-drink products that contain 100 percent of the recommended amount of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) on the ingredient list."

Source: Purdue News Service, September 9, 2009. Download PDF of Memo #2131

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