Rumor has it that pasta didn't originate in Italy—instead, Marco Polo brought noodles back with him from China. I say "rumor" because nobody can pinpoint exactly when humans started mixing flour with water, then rolling it into thin sheets to be cut and boiled. And I'm not sure it matters. While most Asian noodles and Italian pasta aren't interchangeable, sometimes you can swap pantry-staple pasta for Chinese noodles with terrific results.
Case in point: These cold sesame noodles. If you've got long pasta in the cupboard plus peanut butter and some basic Asian ingredients, you've got dinner.
Note: I like to use a combination of tahini—Middle Eastern sesame paste—and peanut butter, but if you don't have tahini you can double the PB instead.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Rinse the pasta with cold water, then drain it again.2.
While the pasta cooks, in a large bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, tahini, peanut butter, soy sauce, honey, vinegar, ginger and hot sauce. Thin the sauce with the reserved cooking water until it's about the consistency of heavy cream—you may not need all the water.3.
Add the pasta and any optional add-ins to the bowl and toss well. Garnish with sliced scallions and sesame seeds, and serve.
Debbie Koenig is the author of the cookbook Parents Need to Eat Too. She lives with her family in Brooklyn.