Monday, October 29, 2012

Pizzasketti, Or One Way to Use Up Leftover Pasta

The Rising Spoon Blog: Pizzasketti, A Baked Pizza-Style Pasta. The best way to use up leftover noodles!

If you're anything like me, every time you cook pasta you end up with leftover noodles. This is nothing to complain about, as you can use those aforementioned noodles in a myriad of ways. Heat 'em up with butter, parmesan, salt & pepper for a comforting lunch or snack. Add them to your morning scrambled eggs to stretch them further, or combine the noodles with leftover veggies & meats and bake a frittata. 

Last week I was on a total carb binge and made pasta for dinner twice. The first was my typical spicy tomato sauce with fusilli and the second was a lemon, goat cheese and broccoli spaghetti dish. Needless to say, by Friday I had an overabundance of plain, cooked noodles crowding my fridge. 

Since my last two attempts at making pizza crust failed miserably, I had two spare packages of pepperoni lingering in the cheese drawer. If I didn't use them up soon, they'd continue to remind me of my bread/pizza making inadequacies. (As if my boyfriend hasn't reminded me enough.)

If you can't tell, I dislike failure. But I'm also a stubborn, tenacious person, so I'll continue researching breads and recipes until I find one that works for me. My next course of action is to attempt a genuine cookbook recipe instead of a random one from the internet. It's probably my own fault, though. I keep getting lured by these super-easy-hardly-any-kneading-or-rising-time-needed-but-supposed-to-turn-out-like-perfect-bread recipes. And of course these online recipes aren't super specific. I'm betting I was supposed to use quick-rise yeast, even though they never mentioned it. Le sigh.

Also, in three weeks I have a Thanksgiving date with my stepmother. She's going to bring her copy of Joy of Cooking and we're making bread together. Can't wait to finally make a proper pizza crust and shove it in my boyfriends face, both literally and figuratively. 

Ahem, slightly sorry for the tangent. 

Back to the pizzasketti. Or "Fake Pizza" as my boyfriend lovingly calls it.

It's a pizza inspired pasta dish that's great for using up whatever leftovers you happen to have hanging around.

In other words, totally versatile, just like actual pizza.
Last friday when I was updating my RecipeNewz gallery, I stumbled upon The Kitchen is My Playground's lovely Pizza Spaghetti Bake recipe. I drooled for a few seconds, visited the link and immediately hit print. 

The author's original recipe called for a 9x13 baking dish and enough pasta and toppings to go within. I was only using up leftovers, so I scaled mine down to a 9x9, 2 quart glass dish. I had enough noodles (a mix of fusilli and spaghetti) to fill the dish halfway, then simply eyeballed the sauce, seasonings and toppings. 

As for the sauce, I only had a small quantity of the necessary ingredient (jarred sauce), so I pulled a Macgyver-inspired move. I used one cup of my homemade spicy tomato sauce from earlier in the week, mixed that with 4-6 ounces of jarred pasta sauce (that's all I had left), plus a small can of tomato sauce (it was 6-8 oz, I believe). Then I mixed all three into the pasta instead of just pouring it on top. That way the pasta would not dry out. 

From there, I added the cooked, hot italian sausage, pepperoni and seasonings very liberally (I like a lot of flavor), sprinkled on a thick layer of shredded cheese, dotted more pepperonis on top, plus more seasonings, then popped it in the oven. Super easy! Next time I'll mix extra cheese into the pasta so there's cheese in every bit. Totally not excessive... :)

The Rising Spoon Blog: Pizzasketti, A Baked Pizza-Style Pasta. The best way to use up leftover noodles!

Pizzasketti, Or One Way to Use Up Leftover Pasta
A pizza-style inspired baked pasta. Great way to use up leftover cooked noodles, vegetables or meat. Comforting, economical and super easy.
Adapted from The Kitchen is My Playground's Pizza Spaghetti Bake

1 teaspoon of extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 cups of leftover cooked organic pasta (I used spaghetti & fusilli)
18-20+ ounces of jarred, homemade or canned organic tomato sauce (add more if you like it saucy)
Garlic Powder, to taste 
Dried Italian Seasoning Blend, to taste
Dried Oregano, to taste
Crushed Red Pepper, to taste
Sea salt, to taste
Cracked Black Pepper, to taste
30-40 small pepperoni slices, or 10 large slices quartered (look for nitrate-free pepperoni if possible)
1/4 lb ground hot Italian sausage, cooked & crumbled
8-10 oz of shredded full-fat mozzarella 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a small non-stick pan to medium-high and pour in the teaspoon of olive oil. Add the ground italian sausage and pan-fry until completely cooked through (no pink), breaking the sausage up into chunks or crumbled bits. Dump the cooked pasta into a 9x9 glass baking dish (or like sized oven safe pan) and spread evenly. Pour the sauce over the noodles and mix thoroughly. Season with garlic powder, dried italian seasoning, dried oregano, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper to taste. Use the spices liberally! The more the better, especially if you're using plain tomato sauce. 

Scoop half the cooked sausage onto the pasta and mix it in with the noodles. Sprinkle the other half on top of the noodles. Then, layer half the pepperoni slices across the pasta and crumbled sausage. Pour the cheese on top of the pepperoni, creating a thick layer, then top this with the rest of the pepperoni slices. Season the top layer (cheese & pepperoni) with a bit more of all the spices, then pop in the middle rack of the oven. 

Bake for 30 minutes, let cool for a few minutes, then eat immediately. You want to eat it while the cheese is still melty! 

Notes & Tips
The leftovers are fantastic, but I recommend you sprinkle extra cheese on them before microwaving. 

If you're using a plain tomato sauce, go crazy with the seasonings, especially with the garlic powder. It tastes fantastic this way. However, you may want to go easy on the crushed red pepper, unless you're a fan of spiciness. 

Pair with a side salad and a glass or two of white wine for a well-rounded meal. 

Question for Discussion: What's your favorite way to use leftover noodles?

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