You know how sometimes it gets close to dinner time and you think, “Oh, poo. I haven’t made anything, and The Beloved might starve?” Well, this happens to me on a Frequent Basis. When this happens, I generally turn to Some Sort of Pasta. As a result, we eat Lots of pasta at our house. I do try to change it up and make it as tasty as possible, though, so he doesn’t mutiny and so I don’t get bored.
Here’s what I made for dinner a few nights ago. And it was so good that I could have happily shoveled it into my face until it was All Gone. Just use what I did as a guideline. Of course you can use meat. You can flavor it however you want. You can use whatever cheese you have on hand. And Penne isn’t Mandatory. You get the idea.
- 1 pound penne, cooked to a little less than al dente (it’s going to cook more in the oven)
- splash or two of extra virgin olive oil or a tablespoon or so of butter
- splash of fish sauce and Worcestershire and a healthy squirt of HFCS-free ketchup (more on this in a minute)**
- as much chopped onion as you’d like, maybe about 1/2 cup or so
- 3-14.5 oz cans Muir Glen Organics diced tomatoes
- salt and pepper, to taste
- favorite Italian herb seasoning blend, to taste (or fresh herbs if you have them)
- 3 MorningStar Farms veggie patties, chopped up
- freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste (optional)
- sugar, to taste (maybe just a teaspoon or so, also optional)
- your favorite melty cheese (or combination of cheeses)
Heat a large saute pan. Add the oil or butter. When it shimmers/is all melted and bubbling, add the fish sauce/Worcestershire sauce/ketchup triumvirate. Cook together for a couple of minutes.
Add the onions and sweat until translucent but not browned.
Add everything else except for the lemon juice, sugar, pasta and melty cheese. I added the veggie burgers, frozen and whole, straight to the pan and just chopped/smashed them up as they thawed. Let everything cook together about 15 minutes.
Taste and adjust seasonings, adding lemon juice for brightness and sugar to bring out the fruitiness of the tomatoes. You might not need either. Mine needed both.
Cook and drain pasta. Mix with the sauce and pour the whole shebang into an attractive (or otherwise) baking dish. Bake at 375F for about 30 minutes. Add the cheese on top and bake until all melty. Hit it with the broiler to brown the cheese a little.
And that’s pretty much all there was to it.
Oh, yeah–about that fish sauce/Worcestershire/ketchup deal. I Devised this as my Umami Weapon. The fish sauce adds depth and mouthwateringness. The Worcestershire adds more depth and some beefiness, and the ketchup adds even more depth along with sweetness and a hint of cinnamon and clove. Together, the three are magical ingredients for adding that certain je ne sais quois to any meat-, fowl-, fish- or tomato-based dish. Simply vary the proportions of the three depending on the dish. Go heavy on the ketchup and Worcestershire for tomato and beef dishes, heavier on the fish sauce for chicken and fish dishes. Or, just use one or two of the three. But, do try using all three together. Magical.
Now I’m done. Have a lovely day!
**I’m afraid you’ll have to leave out the Worcestershire and fish sauce if you’re a strict vegetarian. I’d sub in some seasoned vinegar or just not worry about it. It’ll still be Very Yummy.