Bucatini and sausage casserole

bucatini casserole

One of the dangers of cooking the way my mom does is that using up leftovers sometimes makes more leftovers, in an endless cycle. Over the years, I have had to break myself of some of her habits. There are things I don’t do that my mother does. Some of them are:

  • saving a small amount of vegetables from a dinner
  • saving any amount of food that we don’t like or won’t want as leftovers (most fish, for instance, just doesn’t keep well, in my view)
  • saving any leftovers in the fridge that don’t get eaten within three days

Don’t tell my mom that, okay? (Mom, you didn’t hear that, okay?)

One thing I do that mom does, and I have to keep it in check, is make a new dish out of the leftovers from something else. This casserole is a good example. A night or two ago, I made bucatini with a simple sauce of Italian sausage, mushrooms, and a jar of good tomato sauce. Contrary to my habit (and completely in line with my mom’s principles), I made more than we would eat, on purpose, because my kid was coming over to dinner, and I wanted her to have plenty of yummy food (and even to take some home if she wanted). What that ended up meaning was way too many leftovers.

bucatini casserole

We could easily have eaten that same pasta, just heated up, but I was in the mood to cook, so I tossed the pasta in a baking dish, mixed in some green olives (stuffed with anchovies, but any olives would have worked), topped it with some French-fried onions (bought at Ikea) and a shake of grated Parmesan cheese, and baked at 350F until the top was brown and the pasta was heated through (I’d say about 30-45 minutes). Essentially the same dish, but the crunchy topping made it feel like a new thing. Fortunately, we were hungry, and there’s none of this dish to try to figure out what to do with tomorrow.

Pantry Cooking Project, Day 7

Day 7 of the project; still plenty of food in the house

Long, hard day. Here, have a photo!

This is dinner: macaroni with homemade spaghetti sauce, cooked green beans, and a salad of tomatoes, avocados, red peppers, olive oil, salt, and balsamic vinegar.



It’s day 7 of our project, and we’re nowhere near running out of food. We are still shopping, but only for veggies and coffee. I am still eating out a lot; not sure when I became a person who can’t go a week without buying prepared food. Good to know about myself, though!

Breakfast was an apple and a slice of cheddar. I took a cellphone photo of it, but it didn’t turn out.

Lunch was an avocado sandwich, a cold artichoke dipped in homemade mayo, and a pear. Later, a bought snack: cheese fries and an iced tea.

I forgot to post the week’s menu plan, so I may as well do that:

Monday (pasta): see above

Tuesday (Mexican): If I’m up for it, I’ll make flour tortillas and have soft tacos. Otherwise, it’s Spanish rice again, with beans and veggies (I bought tomatoes and cilantro today).

Wednesday (noodles): Peanut noodles with tofu

Thursday (sandwiches): Veggie burgers with homemade buns

Friday (stir-fry): Stir-fry seitan and rice and veggies

Saturday (chickpea gravy): chickpea gravy and potatoes

Sunday (anything I want to make): fish and chips

Money spent on groceries today: $30.70 (project total $86.56)
Money spent in restaurants: $7 (project total $99.76)
Food gifts received today: $0 (project total $17)
Things we’ve run out of: Mayonnaise, ice cream, hamburger patties, pork chops

Cheesepalooza: Whole-milk Ricotta

Sorta-homemade lasagna with actually-homemade ricotta

I’ve been resisting making this post for a week and a half, for two reasons:

1) My photos didn’t come out all that well, and
2) My ricotta didn’t come out all that well. I couldn’t get it to set up properly. Cooking from the Market’s buttermilk ricotta is much more reliable for me, and the texture is right, while this was rubbery.

This is the first recipe in Cheesepalooza, though, and I have lots more chances to get it right. Besides, the resulting lasagna was ASTOUNDINGLY good, so hey, success!

Here’s the cheese draining on the faucet:

homemade ricotta draining

And here’s the lasagna after I ate all my dinner, went “Oh, shoot! I need a photo!” and put a little more on a plate to photograph.

sorta-homemade lasagna, one slice

It was so darn good, we managed to polish off that little more, too. SO good. And way easy, because I only sort of homemade it. You don’t even really need a recipe. What I did was bought four sheets of fresh pasta (two regular, two spinach) and layered them with jarred sauce, the homemade ricotta, and sliced whole-milk mozzarella. I ran out of mozzarella at the end (I used a pound), so I added some shredded cheddar on the top layer. This went together in maybe five minutes, and then I baked it at 350, covered, for about a half hour, then uncovered it and baked until everything was hot and bubbly. SO good!

And now here’s the worst pic of all. This doesn’t do this delicious thing justice, I promise you.

sorta-homemade lasagna

[Edit: Here’s a photo of an old batch of ricotta, made with the recipe linked above:]

ricotta in a strainer


Tasty, simple, cheap: slumgullion.

When I posted my menu for the week, the big question was “What’s slumgullion?

This is slumgullion:

Well, one version, anyway.

I didn’t grow up eating this. It is, however, the food of my misspent hippychick starving-student days, when cheap and easy were the orders of the day.

I remember it started as boredom with cheap mac and cheese. I added some tomato soup to a batch of mac and cheese, and my own version of slumgullion was born. I didn’t call it that at the time, but a few years later, I found that this soupy mixture of macaroni, tomatoes, and often some kind of protein (TVP, cheese, whatever) had a name. And a fun name it is!

Most of the versions I found online share a base of macaroni, browned ground meat, and some kind of tomatoey sauce, but the variations are endless, and even those basics are negotiable: I saw slumgullion recipes that included potatoes instead of pasta, ones that were baked with cheese, and one of my commenters remembers hot dogs and scrambled eggs in hers.

The thing that makes this slumgullion and not just noodles with tomato sauce is the consistency, I think. It’s soupier than mac and cheese, but not quite soupy enough to be, well, soup.

Most commonly when I was in college, it ended up being mac and cheese, some kind of tomato product (tomato soup, canned tomatoes, or salsa), and occasionally something else for texture (onions or peas or Morningstar Crumbles or whatever). When I stopped being a vegetarian, I sometimes added ground meat, but it’s not necessary for me.

Today’s was a little foofier, chiefly because I’ve been adding veggies to EVERYthing, and this was no exception.

I pan-roasted some onions and cauliflower florets with olive oil, sea salt, and plenty of garlic, then tossed in a large handful of mustard greens and a cup or so of dry TVP. While the cauliflower was cooking, I boiled a pot of macaroni, then added it and a can of diced tomatoes to the veggie mixture. It was a little dull, so I dumped in some grated Parmesan. The end.

Tasty, simple, cheap. My three best friends.

Mertie’s Mondays: Curried Dilled Pasta Salad

Dill and curry make a memorable pasta salad for potlucks—make a lot!

Over the years I’ve often been invited to potluck picnics or parties. My quandary has always been: what do I bring that’s enough for a crowd but not too onerous to prepare or transport. I dislike bringing things like burgers, hot dogs or sausages, or other meats to barbecue. I’ve brought rice dishes, but pilaf kind of palls after a while and Hansen Fried Rice is stodgy if not consumed immediately.

I have no idea where I got this recipe. I just Googled “curried dilled pasta salad” and got quite a few curried pasta salads, and quite a few dilled pasta salads, but no curried dilled pasta salads. So maybe I made it up myself. I seem to remember Mom making macaroni salad (no one called it “pasta” back then) but if she did, it wasn’t singular enough to ping my memory (Sorry, Mom!). I hope that you will enjoy it. Be warned, though: it’s not worth making a small amount of this (to my mind). So don’t try making it for four people, as the amount of prep time won’t make it worth your while. Make it by the tubload, as I do, and bring it along. My experience is this: I have almost never had to bring anything but the empty pot and the spoon home again after the picnic, as every morsel has been eaten. It’s portable comfort food.

Start out with at least two pounds of uncooked pasta. I find that interesting shapes like fusilli or shells work well in that they trap the dressing in their folds and make it more exciting to eat. Boil four quarts of salted water in a large stockpot, throw in the pasta, and cook al dente. I can’t give you a time on this, unfortunately, as I’ve never timed it. Do stir it frequently during the cooking process.

Once the pasta is done, drain it and put it back in the empty pot. Assuming you have a two-handled stock pot like mine, this will be your transport container. Let it cool a bit while you make the dressing and vegetables.

I normally put chopped onion, green pepper, and celery into the pasta. Amounts vary, but two medium peppers, two medium onions, and about four ribs of celery, all chopped relatively fine (but NOT minced) will do. Dump them into the cooling pasta and mix it around. Add to it one large jar of drained sliced black olives (if you like them; reserve the liquid) and about 10 small dill pickles, minced. Make sure it’s well mixed.

The dressing starts off with around a cup of mayonnaise. You can put more in if you like. It’s best to do this in a glass bowl, not plastic, as the curry powder will eventually tint plastic greenish-yellow. Add to the mayo two tablespoons yellow mustard—no Dijon or English mustard will do! Then add two tablespoons of medium or mild curry powder. The intention here is not to burn mouths, but tingle them. And then, two tablespoons of dried dill weed. Add salt and pepper, and about three tablespoons of the black olive liquid, and mix thoroughly. Dump it into the pasta/vegetable mix, and fold it in thoroughly with a slotted spoon. Ensure that the dressing is well-distributed through the pasta.

Once it’s mixed, slice another green pepper and put the rings on top of the salad. If you’re really arty, put a black olive in the middle of each pepper ring. Then, dust the top with paprika as we have a lot of white, green, and yellow colours, but no red. Then cover it and put it in the fridge to meld the flavours. Next day, take it to the picnic and enjoy!