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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Money Saving Pasta dish at $1.20 a serving

It doesn't cost a lot to feed a large family. This is my own recipe and doesn't really have a name yet. In fact, I've never even written the recipe down.

I start with a package of Armour Italian Style Meatballs, 14oz bag. It says it contains over 26 fully cooked meatballs. On sale, I can get these for $3.99/bag. I slightly thaw the bag just to the point where I can cut up the meatballs. Cut each in half. Cut your half in half, then slice 3 or 4 times. I end up with 16 tiny pieces from each meatball. It's up to you but many times I only use half a bag of meatballs to feed my family of 5 when cut up this way.

Cook a 16oz package of pasta according to package directions. I choose a small shell pasta. Use up anything you have in the house. You can even mix pasta. You could use macaroni but that pasta is thicker. If you wanted to use spaghetti, I would break it up 3 times so that you have 3-4 inch pieces before you boil them. The idea is that this is a premixed casserole type dinner to dish up, not to assemble on each plate separately.

In another large pot (or same one, once you drain pasta and set it aside), put a little oil (I used olive oil) in the bottom of the pot. Add your meatball pieces. Saute slightly so they are browned. Season with salt and pepper. (I used Nature's Seasoning). Open three 24oz cans of spaghetti sauce. I get these on sale for 99¢ each. Use whatever you have. Tonight we had Garlic & Herb, Meat flavored, and 4 cheese. Mix together with the meatballs.

Now it's time to add seasonings. Although you're using cans of pre-made spaghetti sauce, I still like to add additional seasoning. I added about a tablespoon of dehydrated chopped/minced onion flakes, Italian seasoning (both a tablespoon or two from a large jar and some freshly ground Italian seasoning that gives off a good aroma), some garlic powder with parsley. I added some Badia brand Complete Seasoning (it's found in the Mexican aisle of one of my local grocery stores). It's a combination of garlic, onions, salt, spices and herbs. And because I had it (and it's frightfully expensive at nearly $9 a jar, bought from a table at a trunk show/fair), some Tastefully Simple brand Mama Mia Marinara Sauce Mix (which I'd never used before). Basically a better, chunkier version of the complete seasoning. Oh, and a dash of red pepper flakes. Stir all that together. Once you have all the seasoning mixed into the spaghetti sauce and meatballs, then add the pasta and simmer all together. I like to stir in about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of Parmesan and/or Romano shredded cheese at this point to melt in. Let it simmer until heated through, stirring occasionally.

Since I've never written this recipe down, it comes out a little different each time depending on what's in the pantry, how many I'm feeding, etc.

Serve warm with some Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. You could get fancy and garnish with parsley or other fresh herbs. I served it with half slices of my homemade herbed French bread to dip into the sauce. The photo above unfortunately was of what was leftover, as I didn't think to take a photo until after we'd already eaten. This meal fills half of my 8 quart dutch oven when I whip up a batch. It feeds 5, even with some eaten seconds, and still provides enough leftovers for a few lunches.

Let's see... taking my sale prices and the amount used into question, I spent...

16oz bag Pasta $1.29
3 - 24oz cans spaghetti sauce $2.97
1/2 bag of frozen meatballs $1.99
Parmesan cheese and spices $1

Total = $7.25. Since we have leftovers after feeding a family of 5, I'll say this recipe easily feeds at least 6, maybe more. So $7.25 divided by 6 works out to $1.20 a serving. If you feed 7 (with no leftovers) it works out to $1.03 a serving. Note: This does not count the homemade bread I served with the pasta dish as I had that leftover from another meal.