The question is: what's for dinner? The answer is: pasta.

Pasta - so versatile - can be quickly and easily prepared in a lot of different variations to answer lots of mealtime questions. Here are a couple:One answer was provided recently in the Speed Scratch recipe contest sponsored by the Steel Packaging Council and Woman's Day magazine. Antoinette Kanapes of Middle Village, N.Y., was a first-place winner with her recipe for Tuscan Pasta. The recipe takes about 30 minutes to prepare.

The Vegetable Pasta Salad, from the Wheat Foods Council, is also quick and easy to make. All you do is cook the pasta and fold in the other ingredients - but be sure you allow time for chilling.

It works as a main dish salad or as a side dish. (By the way, it travels well - so it would work nicely for a potluck party or Super Bowl bash.)

And for easy cleanup: After cooking pasta, soak the pot in cold water, not hot, for easy removal of the starch that forms.

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RECIPES

TUSCAN PASTA

1 pound bow-tie pasta

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 ounces sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings and crumbled

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes

18-ounce can escarole soup in chicken broth

1 41/2-ounce can Italian-style stewed tomatoes

1 9-ounce can cannellini or small white beans, rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Bring large covered pot of water to boil over high heat. Add pasta and return to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is firm to the bite. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat oil in large, deep, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Crumble in sausage and cook 4 to 5 minutes, breaking up large chunks, until lightly browned and cooked through. Spoon off excess fat.

Stir garlic, salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper into skillet; cook and stir 1 minute. Add escarole soup and stewed tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly and cook 3 minutes, breaking up tomatoes with a spoon. Stir in beans and cook 2 minutes, until heated through.

Transfer pasta to a large heated bowl and pour sauce over top. Sprinkle with Parmesan and toss to mix well. Makes 4 servings.

VEGETABLE PASTA SALAD

10-ounce package rotini pasta

1 1/2 cups broccoli, cut into florets

15-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 large red or green pepper, chopped

1/3 cup chopped onion

2/3 cup low-fat Italian dressing

4 ounces mozzarella cheese, part-skim, grated or cubed

2-ounce can chopped ripe olives

1 large carrot, diced

8 ounces lean, cooked roast beef, cut into thin strips

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Pour boiling water over broccoli. Drain and rinse with cold water immediately. Combine with remaining ingredients; chill before serving. Serves 6.