Wednesday night continued the plan of keep it simple with a pasta and sauce dish. I had half a pepper from the night before, along with the remains of the packets of green beans and mushrooms that needed used up. Also unearthed in the fridge was an unexpected full tub of cream cheese, an entirely expected third of a carton of passata (a fridge/cupboard staple in our house, it amuses me inordinately that its considered a ‘foodie’ ingredient when I tend to buy the Tesco value version) and some cooked chicken.
I thought, seeing that I was writing up this recipe that I would actually measure out the pasta on the scales, instead of just counting out handfuls (2 per person) of pasta as I usually do. Amusingly it turns out that, at least when it comes to pasta bows, 2oz pasta per person does in fact equal two handfuls. Bow pasta on the other hand turns out to expand massively so we could have lived with a bit less, but once that became clear I just upped the veg and chicken I was adding to the sauce and made enough for an extra portion for the following day – success! (I have college on a Thursday night so quick and easy dinner is ideal, thus I try to make extra of whatever I’m making on a Wednesday night so that I’ve got dinner for the following day)
We’ve got an absolute ton of dried herbs and spices in the house, so I’m trying to use them up, so some dried oregano went in the pasta water (in place of salt of which I’m trying to use less) and some dried basil went in the sauce. I used to have a basil plant in the kitchen, which was just amazing for cooking with, I should get another of those once the better weather comes around.
The sauce itself is my cheating tomato sauce, I start with some mushrooms and sauté them until they’re nice and soft, and chuck in about half a teaspoon/a clove of chopped Garlic. (Speaking of food waste, I love cooking with Garlic but I never used to be able to use it all up before it sprouted, then we discovered ‘lazy garlic’ which is jars of pre-chopped garlic in a little vinegar to preserve it so now we use twice as much garlic and waste far less of it too. I’m sure you could do it yourself in a jar at home but its one of my absolute favourite convenience ingredients.) Then I added the pepper and give that a wee stir-fry, before adding the passata – between a third and half a carton depending on how many portions I’m making of it. Simmer that away for a few minutes and then reduce the heat and add the cream cheese – about a third of the tub usually, but more to taste or if it needs using up, as I often make this dish as a ‘what have we got in fridge?’ meal. Stir gently until fully blended, add seasoning (in this case ground basil) to taste and then add the cooked meat if using, simmer gently until meat is heated through or pasta is finished cooking and combine!
This sauce actually has its origins in tomato and mascarpone sauce. I kept seeing it as these ‘fresh’ cook in sauces, so I read the ingredients one day and realised that I could make it myself cheaper with passata and mascarpone cheese. I did that a few times, and it was nice but I find mascarpone to be a bit bland, a bit too creamy and not cheesy enough in flavour really, so I tried substituting the mascarpone for cream cheese one day, liked it better and well its considerably cheaper as I’ve often got cream chees in for sandwiches anyway. I sometimes make it with ricotta if we happen to have some left, which is the tastiest option I find. A large proportion of my ‘experimentation’ in the kitchen is borne of looking in the fridge discovering that we don’t have x thing that I need for the recipe but we do have y similar item, shrugging and going ‘eh, we’ll try it’. It doesn’t always work but it works more often than not.
Finally, during my epic food shop the previous week I’d picked up one of those cheese and tomato over flat bread things, so that got stuck in the oven and served up with it. Quick, easy tea, using up loads of stuff we had kicking about in the fridge.