Normally a day of buying every "food" item possible to grill to charred delight in 107 degree eastern North Carolina heat... not for me bud!
After reading last week's food column in our local paper, I was inspired to make an Italian meal for our family's Labor Day feast.
Usually I like to make my own tomato sauce for such dishes, but decided that I didn't want to spend all day in the kitchen and resorted to using two glass jars of Hunt's Traditional Spaghetti Sauce. Another reason for resorting to such measures: my husband's family (whom we were feeding) does not have a taste for anything gourmet... or any food that's not sold in the super fast dinner section of Food Lion or served at local barbecue joints... SO no need to get fancy for this crowd!
FRUGAL FOODIE or WATCH THE WALLET?
Well, this dish wasn't as frugal as most dishes I make. The ricotta cheese in a 2 lb. container cost well over $4 (YIKES!), the shells were inexpensive (less than $2 a box), the Hunts tomato sauce was a little around $1.20 per jar, I had all the spices needed on hand (no outright cost), I bought a bagged salad (around $2.50), and a "take and bake" loaf of fresh bread ($1.20) to serve with the meal. Altogether the meal cost around $15 which served 5 of us, with a WHOLE pan of leftovers (enough for about three additional meals for my husband and I). So since this dish has the possibility of serving nearly 10 people, I'd say this is a frugal foodie!
Here's the recipe with my changes:
2 (12 oz.) packages jumbo pasta shells
4 cups Ricotta cheese
8 ozs. mozzarella cheese, shredded, with extra for sprinkling
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp. SPIKE garlic powder (more as needed... we always like MORE!)
1 teaspoon dried oregano (also more as needed!!)
2 (26 oz.) jars spaghetti sauce
Cook shells according to package instructions, adding a drop or two of extra virgin olive oil to the water to prevent the shells from sticking together. Place shells in cool water to stop cooking. Drain.
Mix together Ricotta cheese, 8 oz. mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, eggs, garlic powder and oregano.
Stuff mixture into shells. (You will probably have some shells left over.) You can use a small spoon to fill shells. You can also fill a plastic zipper bag with part of the mixture and clip off one tip of the bag to pipe mixture into shells.
Cover bottom of two large baking pans with a layer of sauce. This will take about a third of your sauce. Place filled shells open side up, close together in pan. Cover with more sauce. Sprinkle with a extra mozzarella cheese and the remaining Parmesan cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Fresh Garlic Bread:
1 "take and bake" french loaf
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
SPIKE garlic seasoning
Place french loaf on large baking pan or aluminum foil. With silicone pastry brush, brush olive oil all over loaf. Generously sprinkle oregano and garlic seasoning over loaf. You can also sprinkle on parmesan cheese if you want a cheesy loaf. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately!
As for dessert to this gloriously simple meal... again, my non-gourmet husband's family wants nothing to do with fancy pastry, creme brulee, or anything remotely fun and interesting... no they want a plain and simple chocolate cake... straight from the Duncan Hines box, with plain and simple chocolate frosting.. and don't get into any of that dark chocolate or fudge stuff... it has to be plain old milk chocolate icing! Just to satisfy my own inner foodie, I did add a box of chocolate pudding to the box mix to make it extra moist. And I have to say, it was a delicious cake.
Just a note on the frosting (which of course came straight from the can) If you want a quick short-cut on icing a bundt cake, nuke the frosting right in the can for about 15-20 seconds... but DON'T overdo it! Otherwise it will become a completely melted mess, and end up all over the bottom of that pretty dish you have your cake on, that you were so hoping to show off to your non-fancy family. Oh well, it wasn't pretty, but it sure tasted good! ;-)
Be patient with me until I can get a frugal find on a good digital camera, I borrowed the pic of the stuffed shells from visualrecipes.com but I promise mine looked JUST as good as this if not better! ;-)
Tonight I'm making a very frugal mushroom and feta quiche! Stay tuned!