Thursday, March 13, 2014

Fake It Until You Can Make It!

Sometimes It's Good to Fake It

First order of business . . . I have an exception to a shopping rule.  It's a situation I had forgotten about until I ran into it today. Drug Stores have limited shelf space for products, especially food products. Sometimes products don't sell well and need to be moved off shelves quickly. These sales are usually not advertised (ad sales in drug stores are usually not good bargains.) These are clearance sales and can only be found by walking the aisles. I happened to be in CVS today and discovered two really good deals. 10oz packages of Heinz ketchup in a "pouch" were first marked 10 for $10 and THEN 50% off. Second deal was that Ragu Super Vegetable Primavera was marked down to $1.34 and that's a good deal.  Keep in mind that these clearance deals will usually be for only one specific item--not all Ragu sauces were on sale--just that one. 

Next order of business . . . that jar of Ragu sauce . . . yuck, right? Well one of the tricks you need to learn is how to take a product you don't love and turn it into a palatable meal. Pasta sauce is one of the easiest things to fix. (Don't buy a product you really hate, just because it's on sale though. I cannot stand Barilla pasta sauce, it's too sweet and I can't fix that properly so I won't buy it.) 

What You Need

1 jar of pasta sauce: store brand, on sale, or already in the cupboard (CVS $1.34)
12 frozen italian style meatballs: that's usually 1/2 a pckg (Walmart $2.25/2=$1.125)
1 box of pasta (Walmart $1.00)
1 clove of garlic
Italian spices from your pantry/garden: basil, oregano, parsley, bay leaf
salt and pepper
olive oil
red wine (optional)

What to Do

In a medium size sauce pot or small dutch oven (3 to 5 quart size) add your meatballs and jar of sauce and bring up to medium high heat. DON'T throw away the sauce jar!! Smash the garlic clove and add. Add 1 bay leaf, and about a teaspoon (t) of each Italian spice. Add 1 tablespoon (T) of olive oil and 2T of red wine (only if you have a bottle open, don't go to any extra effort for this one.) Bring up to a simmer, until you get bubbles in the sauce, stir and lower the heat to medium low. Allow the sauce to cook at least until the meatballs are completely defrosted. If I have time I let it sit on the heat for as long as I can, stirring occasionally, you can add water to the sauce as needed if it gets too think. I like to use the water the pasta is cooking in. (See below.)

In a large stockpot boil water for pasta. Make sure you have added salt to the water! Cook pasta to al dente--one minute less than the package tells you to cook it for! Drain the pasta and put the pot back on the heat. Add the pasta to the large pot and add 3/4 of the sauce and all of the meatballs. Put the remainder of your sauce back in the original jar and put it in the fridge for my left overs recipe. Heat everything through together and then serve one portion of pasta with 3 meatballs. You can top your dinner with grated parmesan cheese if you have it! 

Divide the leftovers into three portions and put it in the fridge: each portion gets three meatballs!  In your fridge you now have two more lunch or dinner portions and two breakfast portions.  Breakfast? Oh yeah!

It isn't homemade sauce, which I love to make, but good homemade sauce and meatballs takes all day. I very rarely have all day. So I fake it--I love it, my roommate loves it and it costs about $.92 per portion. (That means those breakfasts are even less!)

Bonus Breakfast Recipe

Spaghetti and Meatballs for breakfast? Yup--in fact, double yup. I discovered this idea an a tiny Italian restaurant in New Orleans called Red Gravy, where there is a Polpetta Omelet on the menu. It's an omelet made with ricotta cheese, meatballs and red gravy (that's red sauce to those of you from anywhere else.) They charge $10.95 for the privilege and it's well worth it, when I lived there I was addicted. I had the brainstorm that I could turn left over spaghetti and meatballs into a reasonable, much less expensive copy. 

What You Need

2 eggs
2 T milk or water
1/2 container of left over spaghetti and meatballs
Handful of shredded cheese: your choice, or omit
Salt and pepper
1/2 jar of left over sauce
Pam or generic cooking spray

What to Do

Crack two eggs into a glass, add milk or water and beat thoroughly, set aside. Chop up your leftover spaghetti and meatballs, set aside. Bring an omelet size frying pan (8 inches works) up to medium high heat and coat with non stick cooking spray. Add your leftovers and heat through. Turn the heat down and add eggs, add salt and pepper to taste and allow to set  for a few seconds . . . I cannot teach you how to make the perfect omelet. It takes practice. Keep trying, it's okay if you end up with scrambled eggs the first few times. You'll get it eventually and when you have been doing it awhile you'll be able to make tons of great low cost meals. Here's a tutorial: 

Add the cheese and fold just like Jamie shows you in the video. Reheat your sauce--you can do this in the microwave. Take the omelet out of the pan and top with extra sauce! Here's my most recent omelet, without the extra sauce:

Have fun with it! 

Just in case anyone is planning on visiting New Orleans, here's the website for Red Gravy: I highly recommend a visit for either lunch or breakfast! 

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