Pasta

A perfect vehicle for almost any flavor. A good, cheap, filling starch, or a delicate envelope for a delicious filling.

Pasta Puttanesca

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Sugo alla puttanesca is a simple sauce made of tomatoes, black olives, capers, and anchovies. Served with spaghetti makes Spaghetti alla puttanesca.

This comes together quickly, so prep everything before starting the water for pasta. Start the water, and then immediately start the sauce. By the time the water boils, you'll be done with the work in the sauce and just letting it simmer. Then while it simmers, the pasta cooks. Cook the pasta a little below al dente, then drain and add it to the sauce. Toss to coat, and let sit for a bit more for the pasta to finish cooking and soak up some of the sauce.

I combined two recipes I found to make this (this recipe from Vikalinka and this recipe from MyRecipes), so I wasn't quite sure how it'd turn out. Next time I'm going to chop up the capers to spread them out a bit. I'm also going to try parsley instead of basil, as is more traditional, and the Wikibooks recipe recommended adding some shrimp for protein...

Spaghetti with puttanesca sauce on a plate with bread and
butter

Three Ingredient Mac and Cheese

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If it's not yet clear from the seven other posts about mac and cheese on this site, I love Mac and Cheese. My current favorite recipe is my Cheddar Cheese Sauce, which is quickly built from a standard béchamel (milk sauce). But though practice makes perfect, and the skills needed to make the sauce are transferable to dozens or hundreds of applications, I'm always on the look-out for new recipes to try.

So, a few weeks ago, Serious Eats The Food Lab posted this recipe for 3-ingredient, stove-top Mac and Cheese. The three ingredients are: Macaroni elbow noodles, evaporated milk, cheese. It takes around 10 minutes. It's incredibly simple. It's wonderfully delicious. While this may not end up as my go-to recipe, it's certainly one of the best recipes I've tried.

After a taste test as-is, I decided to add some bacon and chipotle peppers to spice things up a bit. The smokey, chili goodness of real peppers is so much better than the chipotle spice I got from Penzie's (not knocking Penzie's, their spice is still amazing, but it can't compare to the smooth richness of the real deal).

3-ingredient mac and cheese in a bowl on a counter Mac and cheese with bacon and chipotle peppers

Lentil Marinara

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I'd never tried lentils before, which is a shame because they're great. Easy to make and nutritious, lentils are a good staple to have in your pantry. They're like dried beans, without the lengthy overnight soaking before use.

Since I also had a bunch of tomato sauce makings about, I decided to see if they could be combined. I had previously made a red bean and tomato sauce recipe, but beans are large and chewy, and the end result was unappetizing at best.

However, adding 1 cup of red lentils and 2 cups of water to my tomato sauce recipe turned out wonderfully. I just added the lentils and water immediately after everything else, and let the whole thing simmer for 25 minutes until the lentils were tender. The lentils added some flavor and a bunch of protein, so it's a good option for vegetarians (the parmesan cheese I added stopped it from being vegan). Added together with some roasted broccoli and I had a nice, healthy meal.

Tomato sauce with red lentils and roasted broccoli

Creamy Sausage and Mushroom Rigatoni

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Is it still considered Hamburger Helper if it's made with Italian sausage? If it's not made with powders from bags that come in a box? I'm not sure if the difference is that distinct...

This recipe for Creamy Sausage and Mushroom Rigatoni from The Girl Who Ate Everything is uncannily similar to the Spicy Penne and Sausage I've made once in a while. They could be twins. Feel free to add parmesan to this, or basil to that. Peas could go well with this, or maybe some bacon.

In the end, it was easy, inexpensive, and good, which is exactly what a busy weeknight needs. It's adaptable to what's in the kitchen, provided you've got some cream or half-and-half on-hand (have I convinced you yet of their overwhelming utility?).

Creamy Sausage and Mushroom Rigatoni in a bowl with
parmesan

Chicken Parmesan

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I've made this recipe a lot. It was one of the first real things I learned to make. It's one of my favorite recipes: Easy, delicious, and filling. It combines my favorite meat with my favorite pasta sauce. Chicken Parmesan is the perfect chicken dish.

But I've always ever made it with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. In my effort to also learn how to be cheap, and having some stuff to use up from last week's tortellini, I decided to try making it with the bone-in, skin-on chicken thigh quarters I had in the freezer.

It worked better than I expected. The chicken turned out great in the oven, and the tomato sauce worked well with a little extra cooking time. I added some cauliflower to complete the meal.

Get the recipe for Chicken Parmesan

Chicken parmesan served on spaghetti with tomato sauce and
cauliflower