Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The "Until Next Pay Day" Pasta Bake

We used to just call this pasta bake in our home.  Anytime my hubby would ask "whats for dinner" and I replied "pasta bake" he would roll his eyes and say "must be getting close to payday".  He's not a big pasta fan.  I sort of ruined pasta for him in the early days of our relationship when I had zero cooking skills.  I made any and all forms of spaghetti you can think of.  Different noodles, different sauces, different meats such as chicken, bacon and sausage in place of the beef.  It was the only thing I could really cook at the time.  He's pretty anit-pasta now because of it.
The original idea was given to me by his cousins wife, Theresa.  I was excited because it was something I had not thought of doing yet and he was happy with it, for awhile.  I abused it as well and now its one of those meals, along with Shepard's Pie, that gets made only when money is tight and the cupboards are bare.  It got the nickname "Until Next Pay Day" because most ingredients are easily found in everyone's kitchen so there is no need to go to the store.

This dish has evolved over time, as most of my cooking does.  Originally I used bow tie pasta noodles made with white flour.  Then switched to penne pasta, tried it with rotini pasta  a few times and now usually use whole wheat penne.  You can use whatever type of pasta your family prefers.  You want something big and bulky like the pastas listed above, I wouldn't suggest just plain spaghetti or angel hair noodles although who knows, it might work too.
The dish is pictured above using whole wheat penne.  Its the only time I can get it past my hubby.  He eats whole wheat bread but much prefers the white starch in pasta.  But if the sauce is already mixed with it so that he can't see it then he doesn't seem to be able to tell a difference.  Shhhhhh, don't tell him!

What You Will Need-
1 16 oz box of pasta
1/2-1 lbs hamburger
1-2 cups shredded cheese
1 jar spaghetti sauce
Shredded Parm Cheese (optional)

Step 1: Cook the pasta and meat-
Cook pasta according to package directions, drain water
Brown hamburger, you can leave the meat out if you want/ need.  Makes the dish even cheaper.  I often make it like that for the kids and I for lunch.  The Hubs will not eat anything without meat though so for dinner purposes I use hamburger.
Season meat (if using) with whatever seasonings your taste buds enjoy.  I use onion and garlic powder.

Step 2: Assemble and bake pasta dish-
In a 9x13 pan or large casserole dish add noodles, meat, and sauce.
Stir until well combined
Top with shredded cheese.  I usually use mozzarella but you can use whatever cheese you like.  I like a lot of cheese and just grate it fresh from the block over the top until it looks like it has enough.  Maybe 1-2 cups.
Bake at 350 about 10-15 minutes or until cheese is nice and melty and dish is hot.
Sprinkle shredded Parmesan on top when serving, if desired

Its a pretty simple and straight forward dish, tastes yummy and is very wallet friendly.  Its easily adaptable so you can make it your own.  I hope you enjoy!


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