Wagon wheel pasta is a fun, wheel-shaped noodle that can add novelty and whimsy to many classic dishes. With its unique look and versatility, wagon wheel pasta opens up a world of possibilities in the kitchen. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about cooking with wagon wheel pasta.
A Brief History of Wagon Wheel Pasta
Wagon wheel pasta first originated in the United States in the 1920s. The wheel-like shape was meant to resemble the large wheels on wagons traveling out West. These hearty noodles quickly became popular, especially with children, for their fun appearance.
Over the years, wagon wheel pasta has solidified itself as a nostalgic American pantry staple. It’s frequently found in back-to-school lunches, kids’ menus at restaurants, potlucks, and anywhere people want to add a touch of playfulness to pasta.
Benefits of Cooking With Wagon Wheel Pasta
There are many reasons to add wagon wheel pasta to your regular pasta rotation:
- Kid-friendly appeal – The wagon wheel shape makes this pasta fun for kids and helps them eat their veggies when served in creative dishes.
- Holds sauce well – The ridges and spokes on wagon wheels grip and hold sauces, allowing more flavor in each bite.
- Adds interest to dishes – The unique shape stands out in any dish, giving familiar favorites a new twist.
- Works with many recipes – Wagon wheel pasta can substitute most short, tubular pastas like penne, ziti or rigatoni in recipes.
- Easy to eat – The size is perfect for younger kids learning to eat on their own. The spokes give them a built-in handle!
With so many advantages, wagon wheel pasta deserves a regular place on your dinner table.
Pairing Wagon Wheel Pasta with Sauces
The spokes and ridges on wagon wheel pasta are perfect for catching and holding sauces of any consistency. Here are some of the best sauce options to consider:
- Creamy sauces – Rich alfredo, vodka, or wagon wheel pasta recipes
coat each wheel evenly.
- Hearty meat sauces – Rustic Bolognese, meatballs, or sausage sauce won’t slide off these sturdy wheels.
- Fresh tomato/basil sauces – The brightness of fresh tomato sauce is delicious with wagon wheel pasta.
- Pestos or herb sauces – The nooks and crannies hold flavorsome basil or herb sauces nicely.
- Buttery pan sauces – A quick garlic butter or lemon pan sauce flavors every bit.
Feel free to experiment with your favorite sauces. The wagon wheels’ unique shape delivers sauce and flavor in every single bite!
Cooking Instructions for Wagon Wheel Pasta
Cooking wagon wheel pasta is simple, but there are a few tips to ensure it turns out perfectly al dente:
- Use a large pot and allow at least 1 gallon of water per 1 lb of dried pasta.
- Wait until the water is at a full rolling boil before adding the pasta.
- Add a generous amount of salt to the water, about 1-2 Tbsp per 6 quarts.
- Stir immediately after adding pasta to prevent sticking.
- Cook for the time indicated on the package, stirring occasionally.
- Drain pasta 1 minute before al dente and finish cooking in the sauce.
- For baked pasta dishes, undercook the pasta slightly before assembling and baking.
Following these easy steps will result in tender yet chewy wagon wheel pasta ready to become the star of any dish!
Fun and Creative Wagon Wheel Pasta Recipes
The unique look of wagon wheel pasta opens up possibilities for fun new recipes the whole family will love. Here are a few creative recipes to try:
Rainbow Rotini Salad
- Make a colorful salad by mixing wagon wheels with diced bell peppers, shredded carrots, grape tomatoes, and shredded cheese. Toss with Italian dressing.
Baked Ziti Wheels
- Adapt ziti by baking wagon wheels in marinara sauce, ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan.
Chicken Wagon Wheels
- Sauté chicken in cream sauce with mushrooms and spinach. Toss with wagon wheels for a hearty, comforting meal.
Mac and Cheese Wagon Wheels
- Reinvent mac and cheese by coating wagon wheel pasta in an ultra-cheesy sauce and baking until crispy on top.
Pesto Caprese Wagon Wheels
- Toss hot wagon wheels with pesto, diced tomatoes, and mozzarella for a fresh and fast dish.
With wagon wheels, the possibilities are endless! Use them in casseroles, pasta salads, soups and more. Those signature spokes will add interest to any recipe.
Frequently Asked Questions About Wagon Wheel Pasta
Still have some questions about cooking with wagon wheel pasta? Here are answers to some common queries:
1. What’s the best wagon wheel pasta substitute?
Rigatoni, penne, or ziti work well as they are tubular pastas that will hold sauce.
2. How do you make wagon wheel pasta from scratch?
It’s difficult to form the ridged wheel shape at home. Using a pasta machine, you can make smooth wheel shapes from flour and egg dough.
3. Can you use wagon wheel pasta for lasagna?
Yes, it can substitute for traditional lasagna noodles. Break some wheels into shorter pieces to fit your lasagna pan.
4. What food group is wagon wheel pasta?
Pasta is part of the grains food group in USDA guidelines. One serving is 1/2 cup cooked wagon wheels.
5. Is wagon wheel pasta gluten-free?
Most traditional wagon wheel pasta contains gluten. Some brands make gluten-free options using rice or lentil flour instead.
Start Rolling with Wagon Wheels Tonight!
With its fun shape and ability to hold any sauce, wagon wheel pasta deserves regular rotation in family meal planning. This pasta is sure to draw smiles and enrich classic recipes with whimsical flair. Whether in salads, bakes, or saucy dishes, wagon wheel pasta rolls its way into our hearts – and onto our forks!