Megan’s Graduation Pasta: #213 of 1000 Sustainable Food Experiments

Megan graduated from middle school this month – congrats to all the graduates everywhere who had the quarantine graduation experience! Her special request to celebrate at home was this pasta dish – a medley of pasta, garlicky tomato sauce, beans, chick peas, pepperoni, peas, basil, and plant-based parmesan. So delicious – I’m glad she requested it. 🙂

This is part of our 1,000 Food Experiments to create sustainable meals for our family and hopefully yours.

Ingredients ($11 for a large pot to feed 5-6 people)

2 tbsp olive oil – $0.20
4 cloves garlic, minced – $0.15
1 pack pepperoni, diced – $2.99
1 x 28 oz can crushed tomatoes, blended – $1.59
1 can pinto or kidney beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked from dry) – $0.79
1 can garbanzo beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked from dry) – $0.79
1 package mixed pasta – $2.99
1 cup frozen peas – $0.50
7-8 leaves fresh basil, torn up – $1.10
Optional: plant-based cheese or nutritional yeast to your taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add in the garlic and pepperoni and cook for 2-3 minutes until the garlic starts to turn golden brown, then add in the blended tomatoes, followed by the kidney and garbanzo beans. Let it start to bubble, then stir and turn it down to medium low to simmer while you cook the pasta.

2. In a separate large pot filled 3/4 with water, bring it to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Chop your basil and prepare your optional toppings.

3. Finally, add the peas to the sauce and stir well. Drain the pasta and mix in one or two scoops of sauce to prevent the pasta from all sticking together. Call people to the kitchen and let everyone serve and decorate their own bowls!

Sustainability Score (explained here)

  • Time to make: 3 = <1 hour
  • Servings: 3 = lots of leftovers
  • Cost per serving: 3 = <$5
  • Deliciousness: 3 = when are we having this again?
  • Environmental impact: 2 = moderate impact
  • Nutritional value: 3 = optimal nutrition
  • TOTAL: 17/18

If any of you amazing home chefs tried it, or have other recipes you’d like us to experiment with, please let me know. Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy day!

Italian Tomato Salad: #195 of 1000 Sustainable Food Experiments

Growing up, we often had fresh tomatoes in the summer from our own backyard garden or someone else’s nearby. My mom would make this refreshing salad to go with a loaf of fresh Italian bread for a quick lunch. Buon appetito!

This is part of our 1,000 Food Experiments to create sustainable meals for our family and hopefully yours.

Ingredients ($3.50 total)

3-4 heirloom tomatoes, chopped up – $2.97
1/4 onion, chopped up – $0.15
1 tbsp olive oil – $0.10
1 tsp oregano – $0.28
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Toss all the ingredients in a bowl, and ideally let it sit for 10 minutes to get all the flavors mixing together. Serve with fresh bread or, as we did, olive mushroom lentil burgers on homemade burger buns. Enjoy a taste of Italy!

Sustainability Score (explained here)

  • Time to make: 3 = <1 hour
  • Servings: 2 = 4-6 servings
  • Cost per serving: 3 = <$5
  • Deliciousness:  3 = when are we having this again?
  • Environmental impact: 3 = minimal damage
  • Nutritional value: 3 = optimal nutrition
  • TOTAL: 17/18

If any of you amazing home chefs tried it, or have other recipes you’d like us to experiment with, please let me know. Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy day!

Summer Ratatouille: #190 of 1000 Sustainable Food Experiments

We’ve watched the Pixar movie Ratatouille at least a dozen times, but have never worked up the courage to actually make the film’s signature dish. Finally, after 190 of these food experiments, Megan and I decided to give it a go. The hardest part is all the slicing of the vegetables. Other than that, it’s easy and fun to put together this healthy French delicacy.

This is part of our 1,000 Food Experiments to create sustainable meals for our family and hopefully yours.

Ingredients ($10.50 total)

Sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil – $0.20
1 onion, chopped – $0.50
4 cloves garlic, minced – $0.15
1 green pepper, chopped – $0.69
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes, blended – $1.59
8 fresh basil leaves, chopped – $1.10
Salt and pepper to taste

Veggies:
2 large zucchinis, sliced – $1.16
3 tomatoes, sliced – $2.97
6 small potatoes, sliced – $0.90

Herbed oil:
4 tbsp olive oil – $0.40
1 tsp thyme – $0.28
1/2 tsp oregano – $0.14
1/2 tsp basil – $0.14
1 tsp garlic powder or fresh chopped garlic – $0.28
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Make the sauce to go under the layered vegetables: In a large pan that will be safe going into the oven (no plastic handles), heat the 2 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Cool and stir occasionally until soft and a bit golden, about 5 minutes.

Add in the garlic and green pepper, and cook for a few minutes more. Then add in the blended tomatoes and basil, and stir to combine. Let it simmer gently for a few minutes, then remove from heat to cool a bit while you’re chopping up the vegetables.

2. Prepare the veggies: thinly slice the zucchini, potatoes, and tomatoes, and put them in a large bowl. Make the herbed oil by mixing together the 4 tbsp olive oil with the thyme, oregano, basil, garlic, salt and pepper in a small dish.

3. Assemble and bake: arrange the vegetables in mini staggered stacks of 3: one slice zucchini, one slice potato, one slice tomato, and repeat. Start around the edge of the pan to make a circle, then make another inner circle inside the outer circle, and so on until all the tomato sauce is covered up tightly by stacked vegetables. We added an extra slice of zucchini to each stack since we had leftovers.

Once you’re happy with the layout, spoon the herbed oil evenly over the top of all the vegetables. Cover the pan with foil and bake at 375F for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 20 more minutes. The veggies should all be nice and soft. Cool for a few minutes and serve warm in bowls with fresh crusty bread. Bon appetit!

Sustainability Score (explained here)

  • Time to make: 2 = 1-3 hours
  • Servings: 3 = lots of leftovers
  • Cost per serving: 3 = <$5
  • Deliciousness:  3 = when are we having this again?
  • Environmental impact: 3 = minimal damage
  • Nutritional value: 3 = optimal nutrition
  • TOTAL: 17/18

If any of you amazing cooks tried it, or have other recipes you’d like us to experiment with, please let me know. Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy day!

Winter Ratatouille (aka Ghivetch Vegetable Stew): #148 of 1000 Sustainable Food Experiments

We had a lot of cabbage in our farm box this past week, so we improvised this healing stew based on the flavors of a Romanian vegetable stew called ghivetch. It reminded us of ratatouille, but with winter veggies instead of summer ones. So good!

This is part of our 1,000 Food Experiments to create sustainable meals for our family and hopefully yours.

Ingredients ($6.50 total for a large pot)

2 tbsp olive oil – $0.20
1 onion, chopped – $0.50
2 potatoes, cubed – $0.40
4 carrots, sliced – $0.20
1 tbsp dill – $0.70
1 tsp paprika – $0.28
1 cabbage, shredded – $2.49
1 can diced tomatoes – $0.67
2 cups chicken stock – $1.00
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion starts to get soft. Add the potatoes and carrots, then the dill, paprika, salt and pepper. Mix well and cook for 3 more minutes to combine the flavors.

2. Add the cabbage, chicken stock, and diced tomatoes, and mix well. Turn the heat down to medium, cover the pot, and let it simmer for about 20-30 minutes until the cabbage has turned yellow and gotten nice and soft. Taste for seasonings and adjust as needed.

3. Serve in individual bowls, with your favorite nuts as a garnish. Help yourself to second and third helpings if you like, since it’s all vegetables!

Sustainability Score (explained here)

  • Time to make: 3 = <1 hour
  • Servings: 3 = lots of leftovers
  • Cost per serving: 3 = <$5
  • Deliciousness:  2 = decent meal
  • Environmental impact: 3 = minimal damage
  • Nutritional value: 2 = healthy-ish (no protein)
  • TOTAL: 16/18

If you tried it, please let me know how it came out for you. Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy day!

Stovetop Cassoulet: #12 of 1000 Sustainable Food Experiments

This is a warm, comforting, sausage and bean casserole from the south of France. I had a craving for it on a sweltering hot day, so I invented a stovetop version rather than firing up the oven and heating up the house. It’s amazing served with your favorite freshly baked biscuits or crusty bread.

This is part of our 1,000 Food Experiments to create sustainable meals for our family and hopefully yours.

Ingredients ($10 total)

3/4 lb chicken breakfast sausage – $3.49
2 tbsp olive oil – $0.20
1 onion, chopped – $0.50
4 cloves garlic, chopped – $0.15
2 tbsp fresh sage, chopped – $0.90
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce – $0.10
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes with basil – $1.59
2 15.5 oz cans cannellini beans – $1.58
2 tbsp sugar – $0.11
1 small lemon – $0.20
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp fresh chives, chopped – $0.90

Directions

1. In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, then add the sausages. Cook for 2-3 minutes to brown them, then turn them over and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from the pan.

2. Add the onion to the sausage pan and cook 5 minutes until soft and translucent. Add garlic and chopped sage and cook for 3-5 minutes more, until garlic begins to turn golden. 

Blend the crushed tomatoes in a blender for extra smoothness, then add to the onion and garlic pan along with the Worcestershire sauce, sugar, and cannellini beans. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Chop the sausages into pieces and add back to the pan. Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until nicely bubbly and combined. Squeeze fresh lemon over top and taste for final salt/pepper adjustments. Serve hot with fresh biscuits or crusty bread and any side vegetables you like.

Sustainability Score (explained here)

  • Time to make: 3 = <1 hour
  • Servings:  3 = >6 servings
  • Cost per person (prices based on Trader Joe’s/Costco): 3 = <$5
  • Deliciousness: 3 = when are we having this again?
  • Environmental impact: 2 = moderate impact
  • Nutritional value: 2 = healthy-ish
  • TOTAL: 16/18

If you tried it, please let me know how it came out for you. Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy day!

Nonna’s Pasta Bolognese: #1 of 1000 Sustainable Food Experiments

This is my Italian grandmother’s recipe for pasta with a rich, flavorful meat sauce. With a few of my own twists to make it a favorite at our dinner table.

This is part of our 1,000 Food Experiments to create sustainable meals for our family and hopefully yours.

Ingredients ($10.50 total)

1 lb dry pasta (rigatoni, fusilli, spaghetti, whatever you like) – $1.49
2 tbsp olive oil – $0.20
1 onion, chopped – $0.50
4 cloves garlic, chopped – $0.15
1 lb organic ground beef – $5.99
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce – $0.10
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes with basil – $1.59
Salt and pepper to taste
Pecorino romano cheese to sprinkle on top – $0.50

Directions

1. In a medium/large pot over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil and add the chopped onion then garlic. Stir until soft and just starting to brown, about 5-8 minutes.

Add the ground beef and Worcestershire sauce to the onion and garlic, and thoroughly mix to break up the beef. Cook until the meat starts to brown.

2. Blend the crushed tomatoes in a blender until smooth, then add to the meat. Stir to combine, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 20 minutes to 2 hours (longer is better if you have the time). Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Salt the water if desired. When the water boils, add the pasta and cook for the time indicated on the package.

Drain the pasta, put it back in the pot, and stir in a ladleful of the sauce. Serve hot to the table. 

Serving tips: Since we have lots of different preferences in our family, I like to let people scoop their own pasta, scoop their own sauce, then add cheese if they want to. A pepper grinder at the table never hurts either. This dish is nice paired with a light salad and a glass of red wine for the adults.

Sustainability Score (explained here)

  • Time to make: 2 = 1-3 hours
  • Servings:  3 = lots of leftovers
  • Cost per person (prices based on Trader Joe’s/Costco):  3 = <$5
  • Deliciousness: 3 = when are we having this again?
  • Environmental impact: 2 = moderate impact
  • Nutritional value: 2 = healthy-ish
  • TOTAL: 15/18

If you tried it, please let me know how it came out for you. Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy day!