Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Iron Chef-ing It Out

Sometimes after several days of not grocery shopping (or several weeks), I find myself at home with nothing to eat. Shocking. A normal person would just flip through their menus and simply decide between Thai and Mexican, call for delivery, and be done with it. I instead like to repeatedly open my refrigerator and cupboard doors, staring blankly as if something delicious is just going to miraculously appear on a silver platter. I've done this so many times that I know that I will usually be able to throw something together (with my seemingly random ingredients) without resorting to the delivery menus. It's my mini-version of Iron Chef, except without the stadium, weird ingredients, opponent, running commentary...you get the idea.

Fortunately I have some basic pantry essentials in my kitchen at almost all times (canned tomatoes, garlic, half-eaten cheese and dried pasta on this particular day), and with these basics you can easily make a much better meal than would come out of an aluminum or plastic container. After taking my 84th look through my kitchen, I decided that I had the makings of a meal that I had recalled reading about in the NY Times Recipes for Health section (my fave). I did make some minor adjustments to the recipe because I didn't have enough tomatoes, I don't like adding sugar to my tomato sauces, and I don't like breadcrumbs as a topping. But the cool thing is that this recipe IS forgiving and you can tweak it to your personal tastes (or grocery shopping forgetfulness).

Below please find my modified version of:
Macaroni With Tomato Sauce and Goat Cheese

10 ounces dried, small, whole wheat pasta (about 2/3 of a 1 pound bag)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 plump garlic cloves, minced

1 (28-ounce) can diced or whole peeled tomatoes

Salt to taste

A couple of fresh basil sprigs (optional - I didn't have any but I think it would be a good addition)

1 teaspoon dried oregano, if not using basil

Freshly ground pepper to taste

4 ounces soft, mild goat cheese

3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Freshly ground pepper

1. Heat a large pot of water for the pasta. Meanwhile make the tomato sauce. Pulse the chopped or whole tomatoes in a food processor fitted with the steel blade, or puree with an immersion blender before you begin. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds to a minute, until it begins to smell fragrant, and add the tomatoes and their juice, salt, oregano if using or basil sprigs. Stir and turn up the heat. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until thick and fragrant, 15 to 20 minutes, or longer if necessary. Remove the basil sprigs and wipe any sauce adhering to them back into the pan. Add freshly ground pepper, stir in the goat cheese and 1/2 cup Parmesan and combine well. Taste and adjust seasonings.

2. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and oil a 2-quart baking dish with olive oil.

3. When the water for the pasta comes to a boil add a tablespoon of salt and cook the pasta for a minute or two less than the instructions on the package indicate. It should still be a little underdone as it will finish cooking in the oven. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add the tomato-goat cheese sauce and stir together until the pasta is thoroughly coated. Transfer to the baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan over the top of the macaroni.

4. Bake in the preheated oven until the casserole is bubbly and lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6


WendyB said...

That looks delicious but I'm also intrigued that you apparently have a good Mexican place that delivers in your hood.

thecatskillkiwi said...

I'm a huge fan cupboard scrounging!!

Jill said...

Anything with goat cheese is on my to do list! Great post. I have a query...do you think you could make your font just a tad bit bigger...I'm not old enough to go out and buy reading glasses without a major blow to my ego!

Tina said...

Ha! Yes, I have a thing for tiny type, Jill. Thanks for letting me know!

Tina said...

...and WendyB, El Centro is a total find for the price. And the margaritas, though not deliverable, are worth checking out!