This is dedicated to my cheese-lovers. This is also for those pasta enthusiasts. And yes, those who think they can't quite get their life together-- this is for you too. I don't quite have it together but I'm trying a few things. I'm in the middle of a semi money fast, meaning for the next couple weeks I'm sticking to a pretty frugal budget.
I've been doing this for quite sometime to build a healthy emergency fund. I just take a week or two out of the month to stick to a budget. How I figure that out is find out what I need to put aside for bills, student loan debt, investments and how much I want to put into my emergency fund. Then what I'm left with is a flex spending number. I stick to that number for everything else: food, transportation cost, dining and shopping. All my obligations are accounted for and all I need to remember is ONE number. Tip: have all your bills, debt payments and investment contributions taken out automatically from your bank account-- even savings. I set up a savings bank account at a different bank and every time I get my pay check, I have a certain amount automatically transfer to my other bank account specifically for savings. Bonus points for me because it's a money market account so I'll get some money back from dividends.
This is what helps me stick to that flex spending number. Knowing that money is being taken out of my account for my obligations, I know I really need to stick to this flex spending number or I'll be in the red. And your bank doesn't like that.
The great thing about doing a money fast is that it forces me to not shop as much and thus use everything I have at home to eat. So when I craved something comforting, with tomato and cheese (sounds like a pizza) I raided my kitchen for what ingredients I had.
Here's what I found: two kinds of pasta, panko bread crumbs, half an onion (5 days old in the fridge) and a can of tomato sauce. I almost always have these on hand and I highly recommend it. Pasta and cans or jars of tomato sauce have a long shelf life and you can add fresh ingredients for pretty cheap.
I also always have six different kinds of cheeses in my fridge, basil and some carrots. Finding all of these ingredients inspired me to do a pasta bake.
So easy, really comforting and it's not even that creative. I just put together what I had in my kitchen with a little knowledge of what I've made before. If you've read previous posts the following recipe will sound familiar. That's the wonderful thing about pasta dishes. if you can get the basics, you can start to make your own versions and it will almost always turn out fantastic!
Random Pasta Bake
1 lb of whatever pasta you have
2 cups of whatever cheese you have (I used shredded mozzarella, italian blend and fresh mozarella)
1 can of tomato sauce
3 cloves of garlic (or 1)
1 half onion
1/2 teaspoon of pepper flakes
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
Bunch of basil chopped
Bread crumb topping
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Dice the onion, garlic and carrots as small as you can. In a medium sauce pan saute the onion and carrots first in olive oil on medium heat. When the onions look translucent add the garlic. Cook for about a minute. Add the pepper flakes, garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper. Stir for another minute. Add the tomato sauce, cover and put on high heat. Let the sauce bubble away for 5 minutes. In the mean time boil your pasta and make the bread crumb topping. Mix the panko bread crumbs, parmesan and oregano in a bowl. Add about two tablespoons of olive oil and mix (works better if you use your hand).
Once the pasta is al dente (meaning the pasta has bite to it, it's not too tender), drain and set aside. Turn off the sauce and take off the heat. Once it stops bubbling remove the lid and stir. Taste it and add salt and pepper to taste. In a large mixing bowl or right in the pan if it's big enough, combine the pasta, the sauce and the cheese. Mix it up!
In a baking dish take about a third of the pasta then top with the bread crumb mixture and basil. Repeat for the next two layers. Then top with the rest of the bread crumbs and basil.
Bake the pasta for 20 minutes. When done let sit for 10 minutes, then tuck in!
Look at that beauty! Hope you enjoy!