A Tomato-Feta Macaroni Salad

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - October 19, 2005
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Salt Lake residents Justine and Lucas Nevins lead busy lives. Lucas is a sonar technician for the U.S. Navy and has put his valuable skills to use on a variety of ships, including cruisers and destroyers. In his spare time, he takes great pleasure coaching football for the Moanalua Lions team in Salt Lake. Justine works in the Student Services Office at the University of Hawaii-West Oahu campus, where she also attends classes.


She expects to graduate with a B.A. in Public Administration with a specialization in Justice Administration by May, 2006. After that, Justine hopes to have a challenging career in state or federal law enforcement while going for her master’s degree. The Nevins have two children. Quintel, age 9 is in the fourth grade at Kapunahala Elementary. Quincy is only a year old, and loves to play with all kinds of balls, taking after his father and older brother. The Nevins love to cook. Justine specializes in making authentic Hawaiian dishes, while Lucas cooks Italian specialties from scratch. This column is dedicated to this young, hardworking family.

While several countries claim credit for the invention of pasta, including Italy, China, Japan and France, its exact origins remain vague. According to some sources, pasta was introduced into Italy by Marco Polo when he returned from China in the late 1200s, and there is evidence of Chinese consumption of buckwheat and soybean noodles long before Marco Polo traveled there. In Naples, pasta was made as early as the 15th century, but it was not until the beginning of the 19th century, when the drying process was perfected, that pasta became popular.

In the United States, good quality pasta is made from durum wheat. Pasta can also be made using soft wheat flour, a blend of hard and soft wheat flour, buckwheat flour or rice flour, to name a few. The coloring of pasta may be provided by the adding of food coloring agents, or vegetable purees. In Asia noodles are more commonly made of buckwheat flour or rice flour.

The choice of pasta shapes are a matter of taste, but it also depends on how you will be using the pasta. Thinner pastas are more commonly used in soup and broth, while curved, tubes or twisted pasta are good for soaking up sauces.


Pasta should be cooked in rapidly boiling water. Add long pasta such as linguini in a bunch, gradually pushing it down as it softens; other types of pasta should be added in a steady stream. It is best to cook pasta al dente (slightly firm to the bite). I like to add a little olive oil to keep the pasta from forming clumps. Make sure you use enough water, and a pot that is large enough to allow for swelling, as good quality pasta will expand to about four times its initial size. Too much water is better than too little; use about 12 cups to one pound of pasta. Drain pasta as soon as it is cooked, or it will continue to cook and become too soft. Rinse cooked pasta in cold water if it is very starchy; this also prevents the pasta from sticking.

Pasta is a good source of energy and protein, and is rich in carbohydrates in the form of starch. Because starch is absorbed slowly by the body, it is recommended for athletes needing long term muscle fuel, and for endurance competitions.

Whole wheat pasta contains thiamine, niacin, pantothenic acid magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and copper.

EASY TOMATO AND FETA CHEESE SALAD

* 1 1-pound package elbow macaroni, cooked al dente and cooled in colander
* 4 Roma tomatoes, diced
* 1 small Maui onion, finely diced
* 1/2 cup cooked frozen peas
* 1 bottle fat-free balsamic vinaigrette dressing
* salt and pepper, to taste
* 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (may use flavored feta)

Place elbow macaroni in large bowl and toss with tomatoes, onion and peas. Add dressing and toss lightly until ingredients are coated with dressing. Add salt and pepper and toss to combine. Refrigerate for at least two hours. When ready to serve, sprinkle feta cheese on top.

Makes six servings.

Approximate nutrition information per serving.

Calories: 280 Fat: 5 grams Cholesterol: 15 milligrams Sodium: will vary according to salt added.

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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