Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Leftover Re-Invention

One of the challenges to me over the last year while I've been watching my grocery budget is the dreaded leftovers. I've said it before and I'll probably be saying it until the end of time, I don't like leftovers. We don't like leftovers as a family. I don't know if it's simply a love of variety, but I really can't stand eating the same thing more than once in several days. That can be challenge when you have a tiny grocery budget, usually that leads to forced eating of leftovers. Or does it. Hence the re-invention- taking a leftover and using it in a completely different way than how it was first used. Take baked potatoes for example. Leftovers used to get tossed in the fridge whole, and then they'd get stared at for a few days before they got thrown out. Now, I take those leftover potatoes and do one of two things to them- I shred them for the best hashbrowns ever, or I cut them in half for twice baked potatoes (which can be frozen).

Another challenge for me with leftovers is freshness. I am a freshness nut. Leftovers must be used within 2 or 3 days or frozen, or they get tossed. Any longer than 3 days and I just can't eat it or serve it to anyone. Even cookies, cakes, brownies, etc. After 3 days they lose their freshness, so they go into the freezer if I want to keep them. What can I say- once upon a time I worked in a few grocery store delis, and that is where I learned to be freshness-phobic. (I dare not go into details, much too scary!)

So last night's reinvention was a bit of a challenge for me. We'd had spaghetti and meatballs a few days ago, and yesterday was the use or lose day. I had quite a bit of pasta leftover, and that's one thing I'm not very creative about reusing. I'll toss it into chili or soup or toss it with a different kind of sauce, but really. How many ways can you re-use spaghetti? Last night I tried something new to us. I took the spaghetti and tossed it with an egg, herbs, melted butter and some cheddar cheese (okay, a lot of cheddar cheese), and then put this mixture into a baking dish. Then I added some fresh marinara to my leftover meatballs and sauce and poured this over the pasta. A sprinkling of Parmesan finished the layering and it went into the oven.

30 minutes later I had Spaghetti Pie. A baked spaghetti casserole like dish that takes on a completely different flavor than the original spaghetti and meatballs. We all really enjoyed it and thought it was a great way to use up that pasta. The possibilities are endless, really. You could add whatever odds and ends you have sitting around that need to get used up. I strongly suspect that this dish could also be assembled and then frozen for a make-ahead meal. I will be trying that next time with it so that we're not having pasta twice in a few days. I'll apologize in advance for the photo you are about to see...I just couldn't get a good one last night. Sorry.

Spaghetti Pie
6 cups leftover cooked spaghetti (or other pasta)
1 egg
1 teaspoon Italian Herb seasoning
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 pound ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 jar marinara sauce
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

In a large mixing bowl, combine pasta, egg, herb seasoning, cheddar cheese and butter. Mix well.

Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray, put spaghetti mixture into the pan and spread evenly.

In a saucepan over medium high heat, brown ground beef and onions together until nicely browned. Drain any grease. Spread ground beef and onions over the top of the pasta mixture in the pan.

Pour the bottled marinara sauce over the ground beef mixture, spreading to the edges. Sprinkle the top with the Parmesan cheese.

Bake in a 350ºF oven for 30 minutes, or until bubbling nicely.


JEP said...

Great recipe for these cooler & darker days---I will go meatless, tho'

Erika W. said...

Last night I was thinking that mushrooms and fennel would have been perfect!

Elisabeth said...

I just discovered your blog and am having lots of fun looking around!

I make a very similar spaghetti pie and often freeze it - I'm sure this would work with your version as well!

I have leftover issues too, big time. I love the hashbrown idea for baked potatoes - I've just been throwing leftover potatoes away, so this would be a big step for me. :)

Erika W. said...

Thanks Elisabeth! For the potatoes, you can just shred them on a box grater, and then spread out the shreds on a baking sheet. Toss in the freezer for about an hour, and you have IGF hashbrowns. Scrape them off into a freezer bag for future use.

You live in one of our favorite places to visit! My brother lives in your area, so we visit often.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks for the hashbrown instructions - I will definitely try that!

That's great that you love to visit my area! Lots of great restaurants and food experiences around here, which I love. There's a Penzey's on Grand Avenue too, which is one of MY favorite places to visit. :)