My favorite dish for a post-Pesach feast: creamy, saucy pasta

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When we were kids, we used to play a game during the last few days of Passover. We would make a list of all the foods that we would consume the minute Passover was over, when chametz was allowed back in our diets. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pizza, Oreo cookies, Cheerios, popcorn, pretzels, French toast and ice cream cones were among the most popular fantasies. My top 10 list was always headed by macaroni and cheese, followed by every pasta combination you could think of. Even today, when there are many kosher for Passover “noodles” on store shelves, I miss the real deal, the kind that stands up to a hearty sauce, vegetables or soup.

For me, pasta never tastes as good as the day after Passover, and any size or shape will do. From whimsical bowties to curly corkscrews, tiny pastina to straightforward spaghetti, what could be better this time of year to toss with a simple and savory sauce?

The spring harvest of vegetables and herbs makes these pasta creations especially sensational in taste, texture and color. If you’re lucky enough to have some Passover turkey in your freezer, here is a tasty suggestion to use it in your pasta dish.

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Peas and Turkey

Serves 4-6

2 cups shelled peas, cooked until tender, or 2 cups frozen peas

1 cup chicken stock

2 Tbs. olive oil

1/4 cup water

1 Tbs. fresh tarragon leaves

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 1/2 lbs. asparagus, trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces and cooked just until tender

3 cups cubed cooked turkey

1 lb. freshly cooked spaghetti, drained

In the food processor or blender, puree 1 cup peas with stock, oil, water, tarragon and 1⁄4 cup parsley. Pour into medium saucepan and heat gently with asparagus, turkey and remaining peas. Taste for salt and pepper. Toss with pasta and sprinkle with remaining parsley.

Mac and Cheese

Serves 6-8

7 Tbs. unsalted butter

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour

4 cups milk

1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard

1/8 tsp. cayenne, or to taste

1 lb. elbow macaroni, cooked, drained and cooled

3 cups coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese (about 12 oz.)

1 1/3 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 4 oz.)

1 cup fresh bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 3- to 4-quart shallow baking dish.

In a saucepan, melt 6 Tbs. butter over moderately low heat. Add flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add milk in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil, whisking. Add mustard, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste and simmer sauce, whisking occasionally, until thickened, about 2 minutes.

In a large bowl stir together macaroni, sauce, Cheddar, and 1 cup Parmesan and transfer to prepared dish.

In a small bowl stir together bread crumbs and remaining 1⁄3 cup Parmesan and sprinkle evenly over macaroni. Cut remaining 1 Tbs. butter into bits and scatter over topping.

Bake macaroni in middle of oven 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Rebecca Ets-Hokin. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].