5 Great Pasta Enhancers

Boil water, add pasta, dress with sauce-an easy Italian dinner, but one that can quickly becomes repetitive and dull. Spice up your pasta life with these five easy enhancers! Pasta tastes great cold, too. Pack up any leftovers for an outdoor picnic.

1. Asparagus and bacon: The arrival of spring means that fresh asparagus is once again a hot menu item. After roasting your asparagus spears until tender, mix with your favorite pasta shape and crumble bacon on top. Olive oil and a hard cheese like Grana Padano bring the whole dish together.

2. Lemon zest and parsley: A little lemon zest and minced parsley go a long way towards making a pasta dinner interesting. Citrus and green herbs make pasta light and refreshing. Try this enhancer with corkscrew or ridged pastas, shapes that will deliver those toppings with every bite.

3. Parmesan and scallions: Cheese is a classic accompaniment with pasta, but why not add a pungent kick as well? Scallions add green color and a deep onion-y flavor to pasta dishes; mixed up with melted Parmesan, they transform an ordinary weeknight into a brief trip to Italy. For easy grating, try using a microplane.

4. Mustard and bread crumbs: Mustard with pasta? Think outside that jar of sauce and bake a casserole with wide, flat noodles, ricotta, and a crispy bread crumb layer on top. Mix those bread crumbs with mustard for heat and panache. Try one of these more unusual mustards instead of the usual yellow brand.

5. Roasted red peppers and olive oil: Smoky and sweet, roasted red peppers make spaghetti exciting. Coat noodles with a fruity, resinous olive oil, grate some pecorino, and let the kids dig in. For a little extra protein, add a link or two of Italian sausage.

These easy pasta flavor combinations will make family dinner time a noteworthy event. What are your favorite pasta toppings?