Thursday, March 12, 2009

Recession: Party of One - Tortelloni Two Ways



Mmmm...cheese-filled pasta.

Here we are for another go-round of Recession: Party of One. Actually, two go-rounds. One of my most delicious CostCo purchases was a giant bag of cheese tortelloni - a very versatile pasta choice (although, all pastas are pretty versatile.) So I have not one but TWO delicious meals that took very little time or effort to make.

In another attempt at a yummy yet meat-free meal, I made a quick savory, brothy sauce to go with the pasta, including the veggies of the moment (at least in my world), broccoli and yellow bell pepper. And with the leftover tortelloni and the last of the ropa vieja beef, I made sort of a casserole, and as a side dish, of course I had more of the ubiquitous broccoli.

The great thing about this first meal - and this sauce - is that you could really put just about anything in it. Sausage, chicken, fresh tomato, zucchini, pine nuts, walnuts, rosemary, basil, squash, green beans, peas, pancetta, or bacon would all be lovely - just to name a few.

Think of it as a blank canvas - a hot, cheesy, delicious blank canvas.



1 1/2 c. dry cheese tortelloni (NOTE: I think tortelloni are just slightly bigger than tortellini - it really doesn't make a difference, except in boiling time)
1 orange bell pepper (or any color)
6-7 large broccoli florets, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. butter
juice of one lemon
1/2 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. milk
salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes
grated parmesan
mozzarella cheese, cut into small chunks


Boil the tortelloni for 12-13 minutes, until hot and tender. Drain. Keep warm.


In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat and add the garlic. Cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add the bell pepper, broccoli, lemon juice, chicken broth, and milk. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced by about half and slightly thickened (sauce will still be broth-y).


Reduce the heat to medium and stir in parmesan and mozzarella until melted. Place tortelloni in a bowl and top with some sauce. Enjoy!

This came out pretty dang delicious! I demolished it in about 4 and a half minutes by my estimate, and even got a spoon so I could get every last drop of sauce. The sauce is rich without being heavy, and I really liked how the meatlessness let the flavor of the cheeses take center stage. In times of increased cash flow, I'd definitely add some fresh herbs - anything would work, but I'm partial to basil and parsley.

Now for the Party of One Price Index:

TORTELLONI: 20 cents
BROCCOLI: 54 cents
TOMATOES: 55 cents
LEMON: 60 cents
MOZZARELLA: 45 cents

Since everything else were things I had on hand before this CostCo endeavor, that brings the per-serving GRAND TOTAL to:


Well, I think it may be the most expensive R: P of 1 meal to date, but in the grand scale of things (when you think that a McDonald's Extra Value Meal is about $4) it's still a great deal for a healthy, homemade dinner. Now for the second Tortelloni dish...



Leftover tortelloni (I had about a cup and a half cooked tortelloni left over)
1 can stewed tomatoes and juices
Leftover roasted beef (I had about a cup)
Grated parmesan
Grated mozzarella


If the broccoli is frozen, like mine was, you can boil it. I just microwaved mine for about 3 minutes in a bowl with a little water in the bottom, then drained it.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a shallow baking dish, spread out the pasta. Pour the can of tomatoes, with juices, over the pasta, spreading around the tomato chunks. Cover that with a thin layer of the beef. Sprinkle grated cheeses on top.


Bake for about 30 minutes. Serve with the broccoli. Enjoy!

I had actually put this all together last night when I made the original Tortelloni dish, which made "making" dinner tonight a cinch - I just stuck it in the oven, and bam - dinner in 30 minutes, with no hand-on time. This was actually a really satisfying dish, even though it has so few ingredients. I waited until after I tasted it to add seasoning, and I just sprinkled a smidge of kosher salt on top - it had plenty of flavor from the tortelloni and cheeses.

This is one of my better examples of how to make what seems like a completely new and exciting meal out of things you have leftover from other meals. And, in true cooking-for-one fashion, I now have a ton of leftover tortelloni casserole! I think I'll freeze it, since the beef was made several days ago. But on a night when the last thing I want to do is cook, it'll be great to just pull it out of the freezer and stick it in the oven again.


TORTELLONI: 80 cents (that's 4 servings)
TOMATOES: 55 cents
BEEF: 74 cents
BROCCOLI: 54 cents
MOZZARELLA: 15 cents

Which brings our per-serving GRAND TOTAL to...

70 cents!

SEVENTY CENTS, PEOPLE! Suck it, Recession! You lose, Big Bad Economy!

That, my friends, is called beating the system. Thanks for reading!

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