Pasta, pasta, pasta

Sep. 24, 2013 @ 09:59 AM

From start to finish it was a complete exercise in too darn much.  Kroger had 10 boxes of Barilla whole wheat pasta on sale for $10. So I bought 10 boxes. Then I made dinner for Petey and me, using an entire 1 pound box. I don’t know what I was thinking.
I had enough leftovers to feed the neighborhood.  What to do?
I’d used the angel hair and tossed it with North Ridge salsa fresca; halved grape tomatoes, and a ton of minced garlic, warmed in olive oil and topped with green onions.   
After dinner I was left with a huge bowl of it. So I planned on leftovers for another supper. That night I added more tomatoes and garlic to bulk up the sauce and put the pasta in my big Le Creuset, “Old Blue.”
Once I got everything in the pot, I had an idea. To the pasta I added ½ cup of chicken stock, and ½ cup each of heavy cream and skim milk. I stirred in about 1/3 cup of freshly grated Parmesan, turned it on medium-low, put on the lid, and left it to heat for 15 minutes.
Once the pasta was reheated, I uncovered it. I wanted to approximate the faint licorice flavor that Italian sausage imparts, but without adding meat. I ground a teaspoon of fennel seed with my mortar and pestle, then stirred that in. 
I’m going to stop here and speak about using a mortar and pestle.     
In the hospital, the nurses sometimes use them to crush pills. One of Petey’s pet peeves is the way in which some people do this. Many folks put the medicine into the bowl of the mortar, and slam it with the pestle over and over. Doing it this way will quickly break both mortar and pestle. Petey says the average lifespan of the tool is about two weeks.
The correct way is a nonviolent twisting, pressing motion. You’re gently employing friction, not pummeling a super villain. 
Back to the pasta.
I removed the lid and let it cook some more until the liquid had cooked in and coated the pasta. Then I tossed in a big handful of defrosted peas.  What resulted was an unctuous, creamy sauce.  It was pretty tasty.
After we’d eaten our fill, I was still left with another truckload of pasta. We’d eat it one more night, but this time I already had some ideas for preparation.
On night three I greased a 9X9 dish, added the pasta, and smoothed it out. I baked it at 350 for thirty minutes.  When the timer dinged, I removed the casserole and turned on my low broiler. I scattered some pinched-off pieces of Belgioioso mozzarella cheese over the dish. I then dotted it with crispy bacon shards, and some snipped chives.  I put it under the broiler for 30 more minutes.
My oven has a low broiler setting. It’s very handy because you get overhead heat to brown the top of dishes, but it’s not as hot as a regular broiler, so food can stay under it a while, to slowly brown and finish cooking.
If you don’t have the option, cook it a bit longer on 350, then turn on the broiler and put the pan on the lowest rack in your oven. The distance will slow the action, but the food can still blacken, so keep an eye on it.
When finished, I took it out of the oven and let it sit for about 15 minutes to tighten up, and cool down from the molten lava stage. I sliced the casserole, plated, and served it with a salad.
This third time was the charm. Petey and I had finally finished up the gargantuan amount of angel hair. And we’d done it by enjoying three different meals from the same base dish.
I have learned my lesson.  For two people, a quarter pound is more than enough.  Which means we can get about 40 meals with my 10 for $10 noodles.
But if you need to borrow a box of pasta, please give me a yell.  I’ve still got plenty.
Thanks for your time.
Debbie Matthews lives, writes and cooks in Durham. Her email address is momsequitur@gmail.com.