Pasta from the Pantry
This past week, we dedicated ourselves to get back into our routine of three home-cooked meals each week (we took a bit of a hiatus due to life). But when we're on, my system works pretty well: (1) Every four weeks, go through recipe books, pinterest boards, and our own kitchen and write down 12-15 meal ideas, depending on what sounds good and what we need to use up. I spend a lot of time on this part of the process and usually have a table full of cookbooks, Food Network reviews on the laptop, and one foot in the pantry door to see what we haven't used in awhile; (2) Circle the three for the week that look and go together the best (doing four weeks of planning at once allows for choice - almost as if you're choosing off a menu each week; (3) Get groceries during the weekend for the three meals we circled; and (4) Attempt to cook at least three times during the week, eating leftovers the other days. If we accomplish this feat, we reward ourselves by going out to eat one night a week. The weekends leave room for spontaneity, take-out Saturdays, popcorn Sundays, and travel or get-togethers with family and friends.
I've found this meal plan completely doable, as long as I'm deliberate about planning the meals ahead of time and making sure the groceries are there and ready to use by the time I'm home from work. The planning and grocery buying on-the-fly usually results in either a rushed night, or a $5 Little Caesar's Pizza. I like it because it seems there's always one night a week that we're busy - Beau has a late appointment or I have a late meeting to attend. This becomes our 'leftover' or 'easy night,' and we work around our schedules to make sure home-cooked meals are a priority.
So now that I've completely digressed and let you in on my need for lists, the real reason I'm here is to share a pasta recipe we threw together Friday night. It's the beautiful thing about pasta - as long as you have the essentials (tomatoes, basil, garlic), it's not hard to throw together a yummy pasta with all the right feel-good flavors of Italia.
-a few tbsp. of olive oil
-3-5 garlic cloves, depending on how many vampires are coming to dinner
-one cup roasted red pepper (fresh or canned), chopped
-one, 14.5 oz. can of diced, chopped, or stewed tomatoes (whatever's in the pantry)
-1/2 cup cream
-1/4 cup canned pesto sauce
-a handful of basil leaves, chopped
-salt and pepper
-1 lb. penne pasta
-1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1. Heat olive oil in med. saute pan on medium heat until hot. Add garlic and stir for 2 minutes or until garlic becomes fragrant.
2. Add red pepper and cook for 1 minute. Reduce heat to simmer.
3. Add canned tomatoes. Since I only had stewed tomatoes in the pantry, I pulsed them in my food chopper until they were coarse, then stirred them in. Salt and pepper to taste.
4. Add two tablespoons of the green pesto to the sauce. Mix and let simmer.
5. Cook your pasta in a pot of salted water until al dente.
6. While your pasta is cooking, add the 1/2 cup cream and basil to the simmering sauce.
7. Now for the secret! After your pasta is cooked and drained, pour back into the pot and toss with your remaining pesto. This makes the flavor of the sauce really stick to your noodles.
8. I would recommend plating your pasta and pouring your share of sauce over your noodles. I'm not sure you would have enough sauce if you mixed the two together before plating.
9. Sprinkle with Parm.