This morning, while trying to figure out something interesting for dinner that would use things I have on hand, I stumbled upon my pasta shelf. Okay, so even for a food hoarder like me, that was a little embarrassing…

Since I love pasta, and since I had some marinara in the refrigerator, and since I had three bags of almost empty pasta, I decided to make up a new recipe and call it Hodgepodge Pasta. This recipe is a cross between lasagna with wacky pasta, and goulash with cheese on top.  I even find the term hodgepodge so liberating.  It’s like when people use the term rustic…it’s just another way of saying you just can’t do it wrong.

Total aside, but why oh why, would I have three bags of pasta each with less than a cup or so of pasta in them? I mean, it’s not like pasta measurement is an exact science. Why didn’t I just empty the bag the last time I used that variety? Don’t answer that.

So back to the recipe.  First, I browned and then drained the fat from one pound of ground beef. Next, I added 3 cups of marinara (I had the Heart Smart Prego), two cans of sliced mushrooms, one can of sliced black olives, and ¼ cup of red wine, which is optional. For seasonings, I added 1 Tbsp. on Italian Seasoning, some minced onion and salt and pepper to taste. Lastly, I stirred in ¼ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese.  And while we’re talking about the ingredients, can we take a minute to notice how cute that little chef pig that my sister got me looks from the back?  He has a chalkboard on the front that says Let’s Eat, as if I need a reminder.

Simultaneously, I cooked the pasta in salted boiling water until done. After the pasta was drained, I added it to the marinara mixture, stirred it up and placed it in a greased casserole dish. The casserole was topped with ¾ cup of fresh grated mozzarella cheese. You can either bake right away at 325 for 35-40 minutes until hot and bubbly, or refrigerate/freeze for later use.  Serve with a salad and French bread for a healthy, low fat, delicious dinner, or fresh steamed asparagus as we did. Note: For vegetarian diets, just leave out the ground beef and substitute tofu if desired.

Another great use for a hodgepodge of pasta could be pasta salad. One of the two variations I enjoy are the veggie, olive, feta, salami, pine nut version with a balsamic vinaigrette. The other is a creamy style with canned chicken, diced boiled eggs, celery, and olives, finished off with a mayonnaise and sour cream dressing.

So, the next time you notice that there are dredges of pasta in several bags in your pantry, don’t toss them out. Who knows? Your next hodgepodge pasta creation may be waiting to be discovered!

Good tidings,

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