I’ve been living at home so I’m used to cooking for three (often with a bit left over)–and I’ve always baked for an army. I’m going through a bit of an adjustment period cooking for just me.
For example, Friday night I decided to make myself pasta and homemade sauce (pictured above). I only used a small can of diced tomatoes, a bit of tomato paste, some sauteed mushrooms, and some olive oil to make the sauce. But I really wanted it to be light on the pasta, mainly just chunks of tomato, mushrooms, and olive oil, none of this heavy red sauce that I could have just gotten out of a jar. So to get the ratio of sauce to pasta right I decided to make a whole box of pasta. Apparently the fact that a whole box was easily enough for three with seconds or leftovers for one slipped my mind. I should have just used half a box and half the sauce and frozen the left over sauce.
Hindsight is 20/20 as they say. So I was left with enough pasta to feed a family of 3-4 for just me. I’m on a budget so I didn’t want to wind up tossing the leftovers. On the other hand, I didn’t want to eat the same thing for three (admittedly large and satisfying) meals in a row.
So I decided I’d fool around with using the pasta with the light sauce as a base for other flavors. The first night I had it with shrimp (I get frozen shrimp and keep them in the freezer so I can defrost just what I need), parmesan, a very light drizzle of truffle oil, and sauteed pine nuts. Plus a sprig of fresh parsley from my windowsill herb garden. I only put the shrimp on top of the pasta once it was in my bowl, so as not to get the leftovers fishy.
Saturday night I heated half the leftovers in a sautee pan with lots of olive oil. I made myself 2 slices of good bacon under the broiler and crumbled them and some blue cheese on top, right in the pan so the flavors mixed well. After serving I topped it with a bit of freshly ground pepper. The richness and depth of the bacon and blue cheese, in contrast to the light shrimp and parmesan, made for a very different tasting bowl of very nearly the same pasta.
Sunday night I brought in some reinforcements. I was out during the day so I picked up a couple of slices of fresh roasted turkey (not the deli sliced type, the Thanksgiving dinner type). I also added a diced fresh tomato and some sauteed spinach, because I felt like I should really have some green vegetables, even if it’s only a bit. At the last minute I tossed in some chopped up green olives for a little something extra. Another very different meal with the same base.
If I had to pick I’d say the bacon and blue cheese was my favorite, but I loved all three meals and nothing went to waste. Plus, while Sunday’s brought up the cost (because of where I shopped), I doubt it was more than $6.50 per night for gourmet meals (I think it was less, but I’m rounding way up rather than finding exact prices for some of the ingredients). You can’t get a bowl of pasta anywhere (not even Olive Garden, I checked) let alone a gourmet restaurant for that price.