More people than ever are currently suffering from “fiscal impairment.” What that translates to is that when any of us go into the grocery store, our budgets are tighter than ever. We’re stretching meat, serving cheaper cuts, and serving more meals that feature inexpensive ingredients such as potatoes and pasta than ever before.
While that may not be good for our waistlines, it also presents some unique opportunities to jazz things up. Face it, day 3 of mac ‘n cheese from a box is about as exciting as coming down with a cold. The same thing goes for scalloped potatoes with ham flavoring. There are other choices, and then there is the secret ingredients that all good cooks employ when making the cheap and bland taste like gourmet.
Herbs and spices.
They aren’t cheap, I’ll admit that. Even so, they pack a lot of punch per dollar. Many are also easy to grow in windowsill pots or your garden too. Some are also attractive enough to do double duty in your flower beds.
Pasta and Italian blends are a natural combination, especially with the addition of fennel or anise seed, tomatoes, and garlic. Slicing some pre-cooked Italian sausages (I often buy them in a bulk box of three pounds, pre-cook them all, and package them in the freezer for easy adding to dishes) and combining them with the pasta, herbs, and tomatoes makes for a quick and easy meal. Top it with some mozzarella cheese, pop it into the broiler for a few minutes, and serve it with thick sliced French or Italian bread and a salad, and your family will think you have opened your own private restaurant!
Pasta with Italian sausage
- 1 lb. pasta (try some different shapes besides elbow or spaghetti-rigatoni, spiral, etc.)
- 4 pre-cooked Italian sausages, sliced 1/4″ thick
- 1 can spaghetti sauce
- 1 lb. summer squash, sliced (if large, cut in half or quarters before slicing)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp. fennel or anise seeds
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, saute onions and garlic in olive oil. When onions are translucent, add summer squash and cook until tender. Add sliced sausages and seasonings and heat through.
Drain cooked pasta, and stir in vegetable/meat mixture. Add spaghetti sauce and stir gently to evenly combine. Pour mixture into large casserole, top with cheese, and put in broiler or oven. Heat at450 degrees F. until cheese is melted and lightly browned.
Serve with salad and sliced French or Italian bread.
Makes about 8 servings.