What’s in my Pantry? Pasta Miscellany

At least once a month I like to write a post where I try to get rid of some stuff in my pantry (or use things from a reader suggestion). You can check out the first “What’s in my Pantry?” post here.

This post is actually from a reader who emailed me asking what to do with what they called “pasta miscellany.” I laughed because I know, and you might also, exactly what pasta miscellany is. You know when you have all of those tiny little bags of pasta left over from meals? Well, that is pasta miscellany and it looks like this.

I found five random pastas in my pantry that I was able to use for this: Lasagna, ziti, spaghetti, linguine, and fusilli. My strategy for using all of these things was to pick a base pasta (I picked ziti) and use a larger percentage of that pasta and then supplement it with all the others. I was looking for 16 ounces of pasta total, so I roughly used 8 ounces of ziti and 2 ounces of all the other pastas.

Since I’m using ziti as a base, a baked dish just made sense:

Five pastas. One dish.

Five pastas. One dish.

I looked around for an interesting baked dish where you could substitute different pastas and I found one in my go-to cookbook. It required going to the store and picking up a few things, but it looked really interesting so I gave it a shot.

Yield
Serves 8
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Yum

Pasta Bake

A great way to use leftover pastas in a delicious and filling pasta bake.

Ingredients

16 ounces pasta miscellany

Veggie Sauce:

1 medium/large eggplant, cubed
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large can tomatoes, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Cheese Sauce:

6 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups grated Parmesan

Misc:

4 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 Tablespoons Panko bread crumbs
Print Recipe  

Directions

1) Cube eggplans and drizzle 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet (the largest you have) and get your eggplant started. Let it cook until well-browned over medium-high heat (6-8 minutes) and then transfer to a paper towel to drain.

2) In the same skillet, add another 2 tablespoons of oil and add your onions and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until the onions get soft, probably 3 minutes. Then add your cinnamon, cloves, and red pepper flakes if you are using them.

3) Add your tomatoes and let it reduce and get pretty thick. Then add your eggplant and you will end up with a ragu basically.

4) Cook all pastas according to package. Try not to overcook them.

5) Toss this miscellany with two tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs and set it aside.

6) Start cheese sauce by making a basic roux. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and slowly whisk in 4 tablespoons of flour. Cook it slowly until it starts to turn a medium brown color.

7) Slowly whisk in milk until it is all combined and you have a creamy sauce. Almost gravy like. If it isn’t quite thick just let it simmer for a minute or two. It will thicken up.

8) Slowly drizzle a bit of your hot milk mixture into your eggs. Again whisking quickly. This will bring your eggs slowly up to temperature but it won’t cook them.

9) Once you’ve added a cup of your milk mixture into your eggs and it is still liquid, you can then safely pour your eggs into your milk mixture and it should be alright. You might get a few lumps, but that’s okay.

10) Then add 1.5 cups Parmesan and your fresh nutmeg into this mixture.

11) In a 9×13 baking dish, add Pasta. Veggie sauce. Pasta. Veggie Sauce. Cheese sauce. Sprinkle with extra Parm and breadcrumbs.

12) Bake this at 350 for 45 minutes and then let it cool for at least 5 minutes before you eat it.

One quick note on this recipe. It has a lot of interesting spices in it and I found the flavor to be very unique as a result. At the same time, the whole purpose of this post is to get rid of stuff, not accumulate ingredients. So I would say that if you don’t have all of these spices, you can probably leave a lot of them out and still make a very good baked dish.

I started with my eggplant:

These guys are always good in a sauce.

These guys are always good in a sauce.

Put about two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet (the largest you have) and get your eggplant started. You want it pretty browned. Then transfer it to a paper towel to drain.

In the same skillet, add another 2 tablespoons of oil and add your onions and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until the onions get soft, probably 3 minutes. Then add your cinnamon, cloves, and red pepper flakes if you are using them. I ended up with this interesting mixture. I haven’t smelled anything like this before.

Onions with some odd spices.

Onions with some odd spices.

Add your tomatoes to this strange brew and let it reduce and get pretty thick. Then add your eggplant and you will end up with a ragu basically.

Looks standard. Tastes different.

Looks standard. Tastes different.

Set this aside and get your pasta started. Boil a big pot of water and salt it. As you can imagine, the pasta is going to be tricky because all of these pastas have different cooking times. On top of that, anytime you are making a baked dish you want to undercook the pasta a bit.

The way I cooked my five pastas was to add them in stages from longest cooking (lasagna) to shortest cooking (fusilli). Then pull them all out at the same time a few minutes early. Since you stagger them, if you go by the longest cooking pasta, they will all be undercooked. Theoretically.

This actually worked better than I ever could have hoped and I ended up with a big bowl of undercooked, but evenly undercooked pastas.

Toss this miscellany with two tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs and set it aside.

I was very skeptical at this point.

I was very skeptical at this point.

I still was very unsure that this was going to bake into something edible, but no turning back now.

Onto the cheese sauce! As I said above, this wasn’t my favorite cheese sauce. It was a bit too eggy for me, almost like a custard. I would make it with 2 or 3 eggs rather than the listed 4 in the recipe.

In any event, you start with a basic roux. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and slowly whisk in 4 tablespoons of flour. Cook it slowly until it starts to turn a medium brown color.

A simple Roux.

A simple Roux.

Then there are two tricky parts to making this sauce correctly once your roux is ready.

First, you are about to pour 3 cups of milk into this flour mixture. If you pour it all in at once, you will make dumplings. Not good. Start out with just a few tablespoons of milk and whisk it to combine. Slowly add more and more milk. Whisking, whisking, always whisking! Eventually your milk will be added and you will have a lovely creamy sauce. Almost gravy like. If it isn’t quite thick just let it simmer for a minute or two. It will thicken up.

Second, you need to evenly incorporate your beaten eggs to this mix to thicken if further. However, if you pour your eggs in, you will just make scrambled eggs. Again, not good. So you need to temper the eggs. This is pretty easy you just need to remember to do it. Slowly drizzle a bit of your hot milk mixture into your eggs. Again stirring quickly. This will bring your eggs slowly up to temperature but it won’t cook them.

Once you’ve added a cup of your milk mixture into your eggs and it is still liquid, you can then safely pour your eggs into your milk mixture and it should be alright. You might get a few lumps, but that’s okay.

Then add 1.5 cups Parmesan and your fresh nutmeg into this mixture.

A pretty solid sauce.

A pretty solid sauce.

Next you just have to assemble your pasta disaster. The order goes like this: Pasta. Veggie sauce. Pasta. Veggie Sauce. Cheese sauce. Sprinkle with extra Parm and breadcrumbs.

Two layers of noodles and sauce.

Two layers of noodles and sauce.

Bake this at 350 for 45 minutes and then let it cool for at least 5 minutes before you eat it.

Can you identify all of the pastas?

Can you identify all of the pastas?

Can you find all five pastas in the above photo? The linguine is very hard to see, but there is a small strand of it in the upper right above the cheese glob.

I must say this turned out better than I thought it would. It had some interesting textures and the spices were a great addition.

If you have any other ideas for pantry posts or any other ideas on how to use various pastas, leave a comment or send me an email or tweet!

One comment on “What’s in my Pantry? Pasta Miscellany

  1. Excellent recipes, I love pastas, next week I'll prepare something really delicious with your ideas, you have inspired me and encourage me to prepare these excellent meals.

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