One-Pan Leftover Pasta Revival

While I could eat pasta in any form – cold, warm or otherwise – leftovers can be uninspiring as a dinner option for some. Here’s how chicken apple sausage can give previously cooked pasta a new lease on life by providing ample seasoning and one-pan convenience, along with a jar of roasted red peppers.

Sauté sliced chicken apple sausage in olive oil. Using a fork, lift roasted red peppers from the jar and place in pan with sausage. Slice peppers with spatula while cooking, if desired. When both sausages and peppers are warmed through, add leftover pasta and stir to coat.

Embarrassingly Easy Meatball Lasagna

One of my favorite things about the Sopranos was how they didn’t mess around when it came to food. Feisty Carmella always served up hearty pasta dishes for the family, even when she and Tony were on limited speaking terms. But I digress.

Tonight I was looking for something similarly no nonsense. So I pulled meatballs out of the fridge, and found marinara sauce and lasagna noodles in the cupboard. Bada boom! Basic ingredients for an easy Italian dinner.

The only curve ball was that I had 6 lasagna noodles. Hardly enough for a typical layered lasagna. So here’s what I did:

-Butter the pan; add three lasagna noodles.
-Pour a layer of marinara sauce, followed by pre-cooked meatballs and spinach leaves. Cover with sauce and a layer of shredded cheese.
-Ideally, here’s where you repeat another layer or two.
-Top with final layer of noodles, sauce and shredded cheese.
-Bake covered at 375 for 45 minutes, or until noodles are tender. Finish by baking uncovered until cheese is adequately melted.

David ate a Tony-size portion, so I’d say it was a success.

Defying the Laws of Leftovers

Two-timers are welcome in my kitchen. (See “Beg, Borrow and Meal” exhibits A, B, C, D and E.) And since we have burritos nearly every week, I often have a surplus of leftover, seasoned ground turkey (herein referred to as night #1).

I’ve experimented with leftover turkey before (exhibit F), but this time the stakes were higher, since I used a more traditional taco seasoning on night #1. Due to the complex layers of flavors – I presume – this pasta dish received rave reviews on night #2.

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Here’s how it goes:

  • In a large pan, sauté half an onion (chopped) in olive oil until soft
  • Add minced garlic (1-2 cloves) and quickly follow with leftover ground turkey and 1/2 can white beans
  • Add 1/2 bag of clean, sliced mushrooms
  • When mushrooms are tender enough to your liking, add 1/2 stick butter and a couple spoonfuls of plain yogurt
  • Simmer on low and boil pasta of choice (I used spaghetti)
  • Add al dente pasta to mixture, and serve

On night #3, the other half of the white beans and mushrooms inspired me to create an antipasto salad using chopped salami, tomatoes, spinach, and dried oregano. I paired it with my favorite store-bought, 100% natural (and low-lactose) Wild Mushroom Ravioli.

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Buon appetito!

Monday Quarterback Pesto

My low-lactose spinach dip may not have scored big on Super Bowl Sunday, but it made a delicious pasta sauce on Monday night!

For the dip, I followed this recipe as a guide, swapping almonds for cashews, using fresh garlic in place of powder, and goat cheese instead of cream cheese.

For the pasta, I added leftover turkey meat from burritos (previously seasoned with cumin and chili powder, plus chicken broth) to cooked pasta, and stirred in two spoonfuls of the spinach dip. Delicious!

Winter Produce Experiment

Salad: romaine lettuce, oranges and pecans in homemade dressing (orange juice, olive oil, semillon, salt and pepper)

Pasta: Turkey meatballs with pear; bok choy sautéed in pecans and pear, plus chicken stock added towards the end. Add cooked meatballs to bok choy mixture, then combine with cooked angel hair.

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Making it Work: Turnips

5 meals, one main ingredient: turnips, from Farm Fresh to You. Most of the heavy lifting took place Sunday night. Here’s how it went down:

Sunday: made a half portion of Risotto with Turnips and Bacon while cooking remaining pack of bacon in the oven; simultaneously made Peas and Turnips with Bacon and Dill Butter (minus the dill); experimented with soup made from turnip greens (no good)

Monday: made turkey meatballs with fresh squeezed orange juice, breadcrumbs and egg; served with peas side dish

Tuesday: had peas side dish for lunch; BLTs for dinner with leftover bacon

Thursday: made spinach fettuccine to go with leftover meatballs and homemade cream sauce – half a stick of butter, one giant spoonful of risotto, parmesan cheese and lowfat milk all cooked to a simmer in a saucepan.

Who knew turnips could be such an adventure?!

Loading up on Veggies

Frozen or fresh, veggies rule the plate! In the last year, I’ve made a conscious effort to load our dinners with vegetables. It helps to have biweekly deliveries from Farm Fresh to You, and a stash of frozen options in the freezer. The challenge with fresh veggies is beating the clock. Baby spinach has a limited shelf life, but it’s a versatile veggie. Here are some of the ways I use spinach when the expiration clock’s ticking:

  • Spinach salad: Add chopped walnuts or slivered almonds, dried fruit or apple slices, tomatoes, mushrooms and a creamy dressing.
  • Sauteed spinach: A lot goes a little way, so this is a good way to use up a large batch. Season with olive oil or butter, plus salt and pepper.
  • Tossed with pasta: Add to strained pasta while its still warm; best with tomatoes, fresh parmesan, and any other veggies.

Plus, you enjoy all the Popeye-endorsed health benefits!

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Flash in the Pan Pasta

Pasta + veggies = one-pot hall of fame. As part of my blog birthday celebration, I’m sharing my favorite techniques collected over the past year. Time after time I’ve combined frozen veggies with pasta and beans from the cupboard, and in a pinch I have a healthy dinner for two. Sauces can be just as simple: olive oil, butter, fresh parmesan… or homemade pesto!

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Tonight it took less than 30 minutes to make spaghetti with broccoli and peas, plus pesto made from walnuts, spinach leaves, garlic and olive oil. Cheat sheet: Bring pasta to a boil. Meanwhile, add chopped walnuts to a food processor with a little olive oil, and pulse. Add garlic and pulse. Next add a handful of spinach leaves and blend well. Give it a taste test, and add salt and pepper if needed. After boiling the pasta to al dente, add the frozen veggies and continue boiling until just tender.

Here are some other ways to make an easy and healthy pasta dish all in one pot:

  • Homemade minestrone: Start by sauteeing chopped onion and sliced, cubed sausages; add 1/2 can diced tomatoes, 1 can white beans, chopped carrots and celery (and any other veggies of choice) and bring to boil. Add 1 container of chicken broth or homemade veggie broth; simmer all ingredients for 30 minutes. Add macaroni towards the end and bring to al dente. Serve over sourdough toast, with fresh parmesan.
  • Creamy pasta primavera: Boil spaghetti or any pasta of choice; add frozen peas towards the end of the boiling time (depends on when its near al dente). Meanwhile, microwave beans in a separate dish and dice 2-3 tomatoes. Drain pasta with lid, retaining pasta & peas mixture in same pot. Add warm beans and diced tomatoes; plus 1 tsp butter, a dash of oregano. Coat lighlty with olive oil, and salt & pepper to taste. Serve warm.
  • No talent ravioli: When all else fails, boil frozen ravioli and add butter, fresh herbs and drizzled olive oil to the pot after draining the water with the lid. Or, you can plate the ravioli first and drizzle desired ingredients on top.

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Brain Food

With a limited supply of vegetables, I wasn’t quite sure what to put in tonight’s pasta. Starting with Hodgson Mill‘s flax seed fettuccini, I decide to experiment with a combination of canned tuna and white beans for a protein-packed “pesto” of sorts.

While boiling the pasta, I cooked the tuna and beans (plus generous amount of olive oil) in a separate sauce pan over medium heat. I added fresh, chopped basil and mixed the “pesto” with the noodles, and then served each plate with fresh parmesan.

Surprisingly, it turned out delicious – and was as filling as a heavy cream sauce without all the fat. I recommend trying it when your down to the most basic canned goods. Plus, your brain will appreciate the extra dose of Omega’s from the flax and tuna!

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Drugstore Dinner

I’ve officially joined the recession bandwagon. Tonight I made dinner from inexpensive drugstore ingredients. (Confession: There’s a Longs next to the dry cleaners right on our way home, so I happened to stop.) And it wasn’t bad. Come to think of it, there are quite a few recipes I could dream up from semi-perishable ingredients – you just have to watch the salt content!

Tonight’s menu: Tortillas + black beans + salsa + canned olives + sour cream + cheddar cheese

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Other ideas…

  • Sundried tomatoes + cream cheese + toast = quick party app
  • Black beans + brown rice + sour cream = healthy dinner
  • White beans + roasted bell peppers + toast (or tortillas, toasted) = pretty app
  • Salsa + cream cheese + tortilla chips = best snack ever
  • Pasta + marinara sauce + Kraft parmesan cheese = you know you love it!

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