So these past few weeks have been super-money-saving, crazy, I-feel-bad-for-the-cashiers-at-Shaws couponing months. Check out my friend Ally’s page, More Bang(or) For Your Buck for details, tips, laughs and tricks from a Couponing Queen. Needless to say, I got some great deals this week.
I had an overstock of coupons for the Essential Everyday products. These are kind of like a store brand, but not exactly. This enabled me to get smoked sausage for $1.00 each. Yep, you heard me right – one dollah.
While I was making my purchase, I was thinking how He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named loves sausage with peppers and onions. Seriously, just the smell is enough to lure him from 3 blocks away, or away from a playoff game. (Forget the lingerie – the way to garner someone’s undivided attention is through their olfactory senses and palate.) I remembered I had red onion, green pepper and garlic in the refrigerator from last weeks transactions. Perfect.
I picked up a jar of traditional pasta sauce for .49 and two boxes of pasta were .50 for both. Sweet – only $1.99 spent so far. I meandered down to the “We baked way too much and people didn’t buy it” shelf, and found an awesome loaf of french bread for $1.50. Lastly, 2 ripe Roma tomatoes for another .85 cents. It’s important to note I always keep butter, garlic, olive oil and spices on hand. (Quick tip – spices are waaaaay cheaper at the Natural Living Center.)
I started making this recipe years ago, when I had three additional (and always hungry) boys in the house. Those of you with boys feel my pain, I know. It was not unusual to spend upwards of $300+ a week. Yes, that’s not a typo - that’s per week! This meal will fill the bellies of the most ravenous of veloci-teen, and save your pantry
and bank account from annihilation.
A quick note about tools before we begin. There is one tool anyone who cooks at all needs to have. You need to have one quality 8-10″ chef’s knife. You don’t need to spend hundred’s of dollars, and you don’t need a million different knives to do a million different things. One, sharp, well-cared for chef’s knife will be your bestest friend ever. I highly recommend you touch it and hold it before you buy it. In the Bangor area, R. M. Flagg has a few that you can wield and wave like Chef Ramsay himself. (Just don’t injure anyone – you don’t have his money or legal team.) Make sure it’s the right weight and balance for your hand. A nice knife will make cooking enjoyable. A bad/cheap knife will be a stressful and frustrating experience you won’t want to repeat. Get a sharpener or learn how to care for the knife yourself manually. Then – keep the fingers of your non-cutting hand curled under – ALWAYS. There’s a bunch of Youtube videos that will help tremendously with knife skills. Trust me when I say having to have a surgeon reattach fingers is a painful and expensive process, with a LONG recovery time. (Someday I’ll explain how I know this.)
I call this recipe Kitchen Sink Pasta because you can literally use whatever you have laying around or leftover in your fridge. Have chicken leftover from 2 nights ago? Cut it up instead of sausage. Have a jar of pesto (or better yet – fresh!) you need to use? Try that instead of red sauce. Add a handful of mushrooms. Be creative – think about what tastes good to you, and channel your inner Julia Child.
Kitchen Sink Pasta
Serves 8 regular servings (or 5 teenager sized servings.)
1 1/2 lb (24 oz) uncooked macaroni pasta (or other style)
16 oz of spaghetti sauce
2 Roma tomatoes, medium sized
1 green pepper, medium sized
1/2 red onion, medium sized (or other kind if you have it already)
1 pkg smoked sausage
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
2 cloves of fresh garlic
loaf of bread (Italian, French or other ‘hearty’ bread)
Olive oil, dried spices – oregano, thyme, parsley, sage, salt, black pepper
Equipment: 1 large skillet, 1 eight quart pot / pasta pot, slotted spoon, basting brush, cutting board, wash cloth, kitchen towel, aluminum foil
Okay, so you’ve got all your ingredients and equipment. Are you ready to rock?
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Take your washcloth and wet it. Ring it out, and shake it out. Lay it flat on your counter. Place your cutting board on top, this will keep your cutting board from slipping or moving around while you are using that amazing new chef’s knife. Wash all of your vegetables.
Prep work: Measure out your spices. If your pasta sauce is seasoned already, use about 1 tsp of each to start (except salt and pepper). If it’s unseasoned, add 2 tsps of each. Put these together in a small bowl for later use.
We’ll start with mincing our garlic. Take the garlic and peel it. There’s lots of tricks to this, but with only two cloves you should manage alright, there’s no time crunch. When they are peeled, turn your chef’s knife on it’s side, and squish the cloves flat. This will make chopping and mincing it much easier. Mincing means the smallest possible pieces without pureeing. So, practice those newly learned knife skills! When your garlic is minced, add it to a microwave safe bowl, along with the butter. Set your microwave to defrost by weight, use .3, and Start. Stir, and set aside.
Slice bread into 1″ slices. Place entire loaf on top of a long sheet of aluminum foil. Take a pastry or basting brush and ‘paint’ each side of the bread with your garlic butter mixture. If you don’t have a brush like this, you can always use a teaspoon to transfer and then spread the butter. When each slice is coated, wrap the loaf in foil and place in the oven for 20 minutes.
Time to chop the rest of your veggies. This is where personal preference comes in. Do you like larger pieces of veggies or small? The key here is to chop them about the same size so they cook evenly. Cut your peppers and onions, set them aside. Slice your tomatoes in half, rinse out the tomato goop from inside – we don’t want it mucking up our sauce. Slice up the tomatoes into bite-sized chunks, and set aside as well. Rinse your cutting board and knife.
Remove the sausage from the package and give it a quick rinse. Cut the sausage at an angle every 1/4″ or so – this makes the pieces look bigger, but not thicker. Cut whole sausage, set aside briefly.
Add water to your stock pot, about 5-6 quarts. Cover, turn on high. (Tip: Don’t salt the water until it boils – it can cause pits on the bottom of your pan!)
While the pasta water is heating, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to skillet. Heat on medium until the oil ‘sheens’, but not smokes. Turn down to low, and carefully add the peppers. Stir frequently and gently. When the edges of the peppers just begin to soften, add the onions too. Continue to stir often.We are looking for the onions to become transparent. When this happens, add the sausage to the pan, stirring frequently. There should be plenty of fat from the sausage to keep anything from sticking.
When the pasta water boils, add 2 tablespoons salt to the water. Then add pasta, stirring frequently for the first 2 minutes. (This is when pasta ‘sticks’.) Turn down to medium heat. Stir periodically during the remainder of cooking.
Smoked sausage is already precooked, so we just need it to heat through. When it’s hot, add the tomato and stir gently for one minute. Add the pasta sauce and mix well. Taste it. Add your spices. Taste it again. Does it need more? Salt and pepper it to your tastes. Cover, and simmer on low until pasta is done cooking.
When your pasta is done, remove and strain. I always add a little margarine or olive oil to the pasta, to keep it from sticking. Remove the bread from the oven and open foil carefully (It will be super hot, and steam burns are awful!). Either plate the pasta with the sauce on top, or mix it all together, add a couple slices of garlic bread and serve.
Doesn’t it look delicious?!
This meal fed six – including two who eat teenager-sized portions. I also have it on good authority that this is even better the second day for work lunches, if you have any left
after the veloci-teens have their way. Given that I always have some of the items ‘in stock’ (peppers, onions, garlic, butter, spices), the cost to feed six people dinner was $4.34 - that’s .73 cents each. Not bad at all!