Picture this: You’ve had a long day. You’re tired, kinda grumpy, and gosh you’re hungry. Maybe you’re cooking for 1, maybe it’s for 7… and you don’t have dinner planned. Does this ever happen to anyone else? No? Just me? That’s ok. Because I almost always have pasta on hand.
Add to it a bit of tomato sauce, some fresh veggies, and you’ve got dinner. If you have ground beef, that’s a bonus. If not, don’t worry. I think you’ll be just fine.
Maybe you haven’t made it to the store yet this week. You’ve got some cheese and veggies, but no tomato sauce in the pantry. I’ve got you covered. Sauté some veggies (the ones from this recipe if you have them, minus the tomatoes). Once they’re cooked, remove them from the pan. Then make a béchamel sauce (fancy sounding way to say a white sauce): add 2 T olive oil to a pan, heat it until it shimmers, then add 2 T all purpose flour and whisk. Cook for about 30-60 seconds, then slowly add some milk (1 to 2 C should do), whisking and letting it thicken between additions. Let it heat up, but don’t boil (the sauce may break) – just heat until steam rises. Remove from the heat and whisk in 1/2 to 1 C cheese, a little at a time. (You could add the fresh tomatoes now. Just let them warm through.) Add your sautéed veggies, some salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings.
Or, you could do both… I call it Spaghetteroni and Cheese. It’s any sort of pasta with tomato sauce that gets topped with cheese sauce. In our home, we think it’s crazy good.
I don’t think you can really go wrong with any of these options. And I’m not sure if I can choose a favorite. But, if I’m going with easiest, this Rotini Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce is super simple and doesn’t take too long to go from starving to eating.
Dinner is saved.
Leftovers can be frozen, so don’t be shy about making a double or even triple batch. Store a few single servings in freezer-safe containers – they’ll be great for lunches if you’re tired of PB&J (I mean, who doesn’t love PB&J?! I do, but it can get old…). I don’t know that I’d recommend freezing the pasta, but you could make enough for dinner and for everyone to take some for lunch the next day. The sauce would also be delicious over top of some Roasted Summer Squash (toss thinly sliced squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes, or until slightly crispy), mixed in with a roasted spaghetti squash, as Stuffed Tomatoes (heat sauce, hollow out large tomatoes, fill with sauce, serve topped with parmesan cheese), or mixed with rice to stuff a Zoo Boat (Stuffed Summer Squash)… the possibilities are endless!
Aaaand now I’m craving PB&J.
- 1/2 lb ground beef
- 1 T olive oil (opt.)
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 2 small zucchini, chopped
- 3-4 medium tomatoes, chopped
- 1 bell pepper, chopped (opt)
- 1 carrot, grated (opt)
- 3 cloves garlic, diced
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
- 1/4 t dried savory
- 1/2 t dried Parsley
- 1/2 t dried basil
- 1/4 t dried oregano
- Pinch coriander
- 1 T balsamic vinegar
- 2 T lemon juice, divided
- 2-3 8oz cans tomato sauce
- 1/2 C pasta water
- 1/2 pkg rotini rice pasta (or your favorite kind of pasta)
- Parmesan cheese, grated, for topping
- Cook beef. Remove from pan and set aside. Wipe out pan if desired.
- (If pan has been wiped out, add 1 T olive oil. Let it get hot.) Add veggies and some salt. Cook over medium-low heat until tender, 10 min or so.
- Add seasonings, balsamic vinegar, 1 T lemon juice, tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 min.
- Cook pasta according to package directions.
- Before draining pasta add 1/2 C pasta water to tomato sauce and stir in. Add 1 T lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
- Top pasta with sauce and some parmesan cheese.