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Super-fast pasta relies on a few tricks

You can't beat a pasta dish when you need to toss together a quick dinner.

Dried pasta is the ultimate got-to-have pantry staple.

It's ideal because most dried pastas can be ready to eat in less than 10 minutes. If you're really in a hurry, fresh pasta can be ready in about 3 minutes.

While the pasta cooks, you can multitask as you prepare the other ingredients. The pasta cooking water can double as your kitchen helper.

Here are a few tips:

* Cook the vegetables with the pasta. Add them during the last 2 minutes of cooking time. This saves time and energy. It also cooks the vegetables just the way I like them — crisp-tender. Add them sooner if you like them on the softer side.

* Make sure the vegetables are cut uniformly for even cooking. Any vegetables will do. Think asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans and even spinach. In today's recipe, half a bag of mixed yellow and green beans squirreled away in the freezer did the trick.

* While the water heats, instead of covering the pot with a lid to speed up the boiling process, set a heatproof bowl inside the pot. Add sauce ingredients, such as butter, olive oil and cheese to the bowl and whisk until heated through or melted. Once the water boils, remove the bowl and set it aside.

* Before you drain the pasta, take a glass measuring cup or large coffee mug and scoop out some of the cooking water. You can use the water to thin out the sauce if needed or to moisten the pasta.

* The most time-consuming part of this recipe is prepping the herbs. You can use any variety, just make sure they're fresh, not dried. Keep in mind, too, that sage and rosemary are fairly strong and can easily overpower a dish.

* When preparing fresh herbs, gently rinse them under cool water, but don't soak them. Dry them well with paper towels before chopping. It's best to chop them just before you add them to the recipe.

Finally, grate the Parmesan fresh. This pumps up the flavor, and you will use less of the pricey cheese.

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