Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pantry Pasta

I made this dinner last night, when I realized that I didn't have time to make my Won-Ton Soup that I had planned (this post coming soon). So, I needed a dinner in a hurry. Good thing I keep my pantry stocked. Having food storage is a life saver. Not just in an emergency, but on busy weeknights too!
   I brought the girls home from gymnastics and had roughly 25 minutes to get dinner on the table (that's when the hubby and my handsome man will be back from baseball practice). I opened my fridge and my cupboards and this is what I came up with.
   Basically, Pantry Pasta is any pasta dish that includes pantry staples and/or leftovers. Tonight it was whole wheat Rotini with corn, chicken and roasted red peppers in a creamy marinara sauce topped with lots of mozzarella and Romano cheese. My two year old said it tasted like Pizza. I think it was the tomato sauce and cheese. It was really tasty, and I got compliments from the hubby and the kids. There were no leftovers, and that is always the biggest compliment. :)

Here's what I did:
I grabbed some canned corn and chicken from the cupboard along with some whole grain rotini shaped pasta. From the fridge I grabbed the last of the spaghetti sauce (1 cup), heavy cream (1/4 cup), some cheese (not pictured) and a roasted red pepper that I made the other night (I was going to peel and jar this with some olive oil for later use. There's no need, now I'll just use it tonight!). - Jarred roasted red peppers are also a pantry staple in our house. They are a little pricey, so I make them myself whenever red bell peppers go on sale.
Whith these basic ingredients and a couple seasonings from my spice cupboard dinner was done in no time!
This is how I put it all together.

I put a pot on the stove with water in it, to get it boiling for the pasta. Then I started peeling my red pepper. To roast your own red peppers just place it over your burner, or barbecue or under your broiler until the skin bubbles and turns black. When all the sides are charred, put the peppers in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and the peppers will steam. When the peppers are cool you can peel them. Easy, and so much cheaper than buying the already prepared kind at the store.

The peel comes off easily, but if there are any stubborn pieces I just leave them on. They will only lend flavor to the dish. (Never rinse your charred peppers under water. You will be rinsing away all the yummy flavor you worked to achieve by charring them!)

When the water is boiling, I salt it . . .

and add 1/2 a pound of pasta to the water. I bring it back up to a boil and cook it for 10 minutes (The box said to cook it for 14 minutes, but I want it underdone so that it will soak up the sauce later.).

I get back to my pepper now. I cut around the sides and stem to get rid of all the seeds.

I cut the pepper into strips and then into bite sized pieces.

When the pasta is mostly done, I drain off all the water except for about 1/2 cup.

I turn the stove on medium heat and add the last of the spaghetti sauce in this jar (about 1 cup).

I let that boil for a couple minutes, so the pasta can really soak it up.

Then I add the drained corn, (I could have drained this better huh? What can I say? I was in a hurry.)

the chopped roasted red pepper,

and the drained chicken.

I stirred it all together and added 1/4 cup of cream (all that was left in the container).

Still cooking over medium heat, I add 1 tsp of onion powder,

1/2 tsp of granulated garlic,

and about 1 tsp of Italian Seasoning - rubbed between my hands before added.

I sprayed a baking dish and poured in the pasta, then I topped it with the last of the shredded mozzarella I had in the fridge (I think it was about 1 - 1 1/2 cups.) I would have added some of the cheese inside the pasta dish, but I didn't think about it until I had already covered the top.

At this point, I thought some Romano cheese would be nice, so I grated about 1/4 cup of that on top as well. It went under a very hot broiler for a couple minutes, just to get brown.

See how pretty? Now it looks like I took more than 20 minutes to make dinner. :) Rachael Ray would totally call this a "fake out meal." It's a meal that looks like it took a lot of time and effort, but it was really simple and fast.
Oooh. So cheesy!
Just scoop and serve.
Don't let time be your enemy. "You can get a healthy and delicious meal on the table in 30 minutes or less." Sorry, just had to quote Rachael Ray one more time. :)  She's usually the one talking in my head when I need to make a dinner in a hurry. She is the queen of 30 minute meals after all.
This dish was born of necessity, but it is definitely I will repeat in the future. It was really tasty. The only change I would make is to add some cheese inside the pasta dish also, instead of it all being on top. "Delicious!" (OK I'm done with the Rachael quotes now.)

Here's the recipe:

Pantry Pasta

1/2 pound of whole wheat Rotini pasta
1 roasted red pepper, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 12.8 oz can of diced chicken breast, drained
1 15 oz can of whole kernel corn, drained
1 cup of spaghetti or marinara sauce
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
1/4 cup of heavy cream
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Romano cheese

Bring a pot of water up to boil. Salt the water generously, and add the pasta. Cook for 10 minutes (very al-dente). Drain the pasta, but keep 1/2 cup of water. Put the pasta and reserved water back in the pot and cook on medium heat. Add the spaghetti sauce and cook for 2 minutes (the pasta is almost all the way cooked now). Add the corn, peppers, chicken, onion powder, garlic, Italian Seasoning and cream. Cook for a minute or two, just until everything is hot and the pasta is tender. Add 1/2 cup of mozzarella to the pasta and stir. Pour the pasta into a greased baking dish and top with remaining mozzarella and Romano cheese. Broil for a couple minutes until brown. Serve hot.

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