cheap dinner recipes en-US Oodles of Noodles: 25 Ways to Prepare Pasta <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/oodles-of-noodles-25-ways-to-prepare-pasta" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Woman eating pasta" title="Woman eating pasta" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="160" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Pasta is one of the most versatile ingredients in your pantry. It can be whipped up in a couple of minutes for a quick weeknight meal, or it can be elegantly prepared for a dinner party. It's perfect for potlucks, can be prepared ahead of time and frozen, and tastes great microwaved the next day. I've divided this collection of pasta recipes into different sections &mdash; Quick and Easy, International, Classic Pasta Dishes, Impressive Dinners, and Up for a Challenge? &mdash; for easy reference.</p> <h2>Quick and Easy</h2> <p>A friend of mine who is a mother of four takes this easy shortcut to making dinner &mdash; at the beginning of the week, she boils up a big pot of pasta, drains it, and stores it in a large container in the fridge. During the week, whenever she needs a quick meal (emergencies happen when you&rsquo;ve got four kids), she whips up a sauce to serve with the pasta, stirs in some frozen spinach, and calls it a meal. Pasta dishes are the easiest main dishes to cook in a flash, especially if the pasta&rsquo;s already done. Most of the below recipes serve two to three, so double if cooking for a family.</p> <p><strong>1. Spinach, Ham, and Artichoke Pasta</strong></p> <p>In a little olive oil, sauté 2 handfuls of baby spinach and 3 slices of ham until warmed through and spinach is beginning to wilt. Add a few spoonfuls of artichoke antipasto (or tapenade, or prepared pesto) and 2-3 cups cooked penne, and stir until heated through. Add a couple tablespoons of water if sauce is too thick. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.</p> <p><strong>2. Stovetop Tuna Casserole</strong></p> <p>In a large pan, heat a can of Campbell&rsquo;s Cream of Mushroom or Cream of Chicken soup, stirring until smooth and creamy. Add a drained can of tuna and 1 cup of frozen vegetables (carrots, peas, and corn). Cook until veggies are thawed and heated through. Add 3 cups of cooked ziti, penne, or other large pasta, and stir into sauce. Season with salt and pepper and serve topped with grated Parmesan.</p> <p><strong>3. Pasta Primavera</strong></p> <p>In a tablespoon of olive oil, sauté 1 thinly sliced zucchini, 1 bell pepper, and &frac12; cup frozen peas with a clove of minced garlic until cooked through. Add 2 handfuls of baby spinach and cook until they begin to wilt. Add a jar of marinara sauce and season with salt and pepper. Cook until sauce is heated through. Toss with cooked pasta and serve.</p> <p><strong>4. Black Pepper Chicken Pasta</strong></p> <p>This Asian-inspired pasta is easy and quick to make. Sauté &frac12; chopped onion until softened, then add 1 diced chicken breast and 1 sliced zucchini. Cook until chicken is cooked through and zucchini is softened. Add 2 heaping tablespoons Lee Kum Kee Black Pepper Sauce (available in the Asian grocery aisle) and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Mix well until sauce coats chicken and vegetables. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve over cooked spaghetti.</p> <p><strong>5. Quick and Easy Couscous Tabbouleh</strong></p> <p>Couscous is one of the easiest pastas in the world to make &mdash; no cooking required! And it truly is a pasta, made of semolina flour, NOT a grain. For this quick salad, dice up 1 English cucumber and 2 tomatoes and place in a large bowl. In a separate, heat-proof bowl, mix together &frac12; cup whole-wheat couscous and &frac12; cup boiling water. Let couscous sit for five minutes, and then fluff with a fork. Let couscous cool while whisking together a vinaigrette of 4 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper, and 1 teaspoon dried basil or parsley. Toss together cooked couscous, vegetables, and some of vinaigrette to taste; adjust seasonings. Serve with a grilled chicken breast or other protein.</p> <p><strong>6. Cheater&rsquo;s Chicken Pho</strong></p> <p>Pho, the quintessential Vietnamese rice noodle soup, typically takes hours to make when you&rsquo;re simmering the stock. This quick version of chicken pho takes all of 15 minutes. Simply soften the rice noodles in hot water, and then add them to pre-bought chicken stock doctored up with five-spice powder, lime juice, fish sauce, and shredded rotisserie chicken.</p> <p><strong>7. Lemon-Basil Ricotta Pasta</strong></p> <p>Cook &frac12; pound penne in a large pot of water. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water. In a skillet over low heat, melt 2 tbsp of butter. Add 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese, salt and pepper, and the zest and juice of 1 large lemon (or 2 small). Mix together until sauce is bubbling &mdash; add a little pasta water if sauce is too thick. Add &frac12; cup of chopped fresh basil and the penne, and toss together until ricotta sauce coats pasta. Serve!</p> <h2>International</h2> <p>Pasta and noodle dishes from around the world can add variety to your repertoire.</p> <p><strong>8. Mango-Shrimp Summer Rolls</strong></p> <p>Pasta goes light with these <a href="">Vietnamese summer rolls</a>: vegetables, rice noodles, shrimp, and mango wrapped up in rice-paper rounds.</p> <p><strong>9. Egg-Topped Soba Noodles With Asparagus and Prosciutto</strong></p> <p>Soba, Japanese buckwheat noodles, are the delicious and healthy base for this <a href="">egg-topped noodle dish</a>, which combines crisp asparagus and savory prosciutto with the creaminess of a fried egg. A delicious easy lunch or weeknight dinner recipe!</p> <p><strong>10. Chinese Fried Noodles</strong></p> <p>My mom used to make this fried noodle dish for a quick Saturday lunch. In a small bowl, stir together 2 tbsp ketchup, 2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce, &frac12; cup chicken broth, 2 teaspoons sugar, and 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over med-high heat. Stir-fry 1 sliced bell pepper, a cup of thinly sliced broccoli or cauliflower, and 2 cloves garlic until cooked through. Add 1 tomato, sliced into wedges, and cook until beginning to soften. Push vegetables to side of pan and add 2 beaten eggs. Scramble until cooked through. Add &frac12; package cooked, drained spaghetti and toss with vegetables and eggs. Add the sauce you mixed earlier and stir the whole thing together until hot and coated with sauce. Taste for seasonings and serve.</p> <p><strong>11. Singapore Curry Noodles</strong></p> <p>Classic <a href="">Singapore rice noodles</a> are fried with yellow curry and various vegetables. The rice noodles are easily cooked by soaking in warm water, and then all you have to do is stir-fry the rest of the ingredients for an easy curry dish.</p> <h2>Classic Pasta Dishes</h2> <p>Sometimes you just crave those comforting classics.</p> <p><strong>12. Prize-Winning Noodle Kugel</strong></p> <p>Sweet pudding and pasta in one? Yes, please! This honey-sweetened <a href="">noodle kugel recipe</a> reportedly won first prize at the Yiddishkayt Festival in Los Angeles, so it must be delicious as well as authentic.</p> <p><strong>13. Spaghetti Bolognese</strong></p> <p>My sister&rsquo;s fabulous mother-in-law shares this recipe for <a href="">spaghetti Bolognese</a>, with a delicious, slightly sweet sauce simmered with olives and bay leaves for a hearty, stew-like texture.</p> <p><strong>14. Eggplant Lasagne With Parsley Pesto</strong></p> <p>This <a href="">white lasagna</a> is made with vegetables and a béchamel sauce instead of a traditional meat sauce, but it&rsquo;s just as tasty and provides a nice alternative for vegetarians. You can substitute a prepared basil pesto instead of the parsley pesto to make this recipe a little faster to put together.</p> <p><strong>15. Cherry Tomato Orzo Salad</strong></p> <p>A good <a href="">orzo salad</a> is an essential dish for parties and potlucks. This one includes sweet cherry tomatoes, feta, and a light vinaigrette. Simple and sweet.</p> <p><strong>16. Beef Stroganoff</strong></p> <p>A good friend of mine makes this excellent Beef Stroganoff. The finishing touch is plenty of fresh dill. Brown 2 pounds of stew beef in a hot skillet in a little olive oil. Remove meat from pan. Add 2 onions in chunks and cook over medium heat until beginning to soften. Add 2 cloves minced garlic and add the meat back into the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Add 2 tablespoons ketchup and 2 tablespoons sweet barbecue sauce. Pour in enough beef broth or water to just cover the chunks of meat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 1&frac12; hours. Add 1 pound sliced mushrooms and simmer another half-hour. Add chopped fresh dill to taste, and serve over egg noodles.</p> <p><strong>17. Baked Ziti</strong></p> <p>Sausage baked with tomato sauce, cheese, and pasta in this comforting <a href="">baked ziti</a> casserole is perfect for a filling meal or for bringing to a potluck. You can even make this ahead of time and freeze it for those nights when you don&rsquo;t feel like cooking.</p> <h2>Impressive Dinners</h2> <p>Pasta can be an impressive main course, even at a formal dinner, when paired with the right ingredients.</p> <p><strong>18. Linguine With Clams</strong></p> <p>This easy <a href="">clam pasta</a> with a tomato-parsley sauce is surprisingly easy to make. Just steam the clams open with tomatoes and herbs, and toss the liquid with the pasta. You&rsquo;ll impress your dinner guests, but you&rsquo;ll still have time to sit down with them and enjoy the company.</p> <p><strong>19. Lobster Mac and Cheese</strong></p> <p>If this <a href="">lobster mac and cheese</a> is good enough for the Barefoot Contessa&rsquo;s guests, it&rsquo;s sure to be elegant for your dinner party. Bring up the luxe factor of classic macaroni and cheese by adding silky lobster meat and then baking the pasta in individual gratin dishes topped with breadcrumbs and cheese.</p> <p><strong>20. Chianti-Braised Chicken Thighs on Egg Noodles</strong></p> <p>When in doubt, add wine. These <a href="">stuffed chicken thighs</a> are a classy company meal, served on top of egg noodles and accompanied with a good bottle of Chianti. This recipe isn&rsquo;t difficult, but it does take time, so you might want to save it for impressing the in-laws.</p> <p><strong>21. Baked Manicotti With Sausage and Peas</strong></p> <p>More elegant than lasagna but simple to put together, this <a href="">baked manicotti</a> can be prepared and then left to cook in the oven while you entertain your guests.</p> <h2>Up for a Challenge?</h2> <p>Yes, dried pasta from a package is easy and delicious, but making your own pasta from scratch really kicks things up a notch. The following recipes are for those who like to experiment in the kitchen, but the recipes really aren&rsquo;t that difficult to master. You&rsquo;ll feel an immense sense of accomplishment when you taste your own gnocchi, spaetzle, and other pasta.</p> <p><strong>22. Basic Gnocchi</strong></p> <p>This <a href="">basic gnocchi</a> recipe from Smitten Kitchen is an easy place to start if you&rsquo;re not experienced making pasta. Gnocchi are dumplings that are basically composed of mashed potatoes mixed with flour, so they&rsquo;re pretty simple to make.</p> <p><strong>23. Sweet Potato Gnocchi With Fried Sage and Shaved Chestnuts</strong></p> <p>When this recipe for <a href="">sweet potato gnocchi</a> appeared in Gourmet magazine in 2009, it spawned a plethora of inspired blog posts around the Internet as home cooks tried &mdash; and loved &mdash; the flavorful, pillowy gnocchi. This recipe is a bit of a process, but the results are rewarding in the end.</p> <p><strong>24. Homemade Trofie al Pesto</strong></p> <p><a href="">Trofie</a> is a rustic handmade pasta from the Ligurian coast of Italy, and it doesn&rsquo;t need to be rolled out with a pasta machine. All you need are your hands, some flour, salt, and water, and you can make this pasta. And if your pasta turns out looking like little worms rather than rustic corkscrews, it&rsquo;ll still taste delicious.</p> <p><strong>25. Homemade Ravioli</strong></p> <p>Learn how to make your own ravioli with this <a href="">ravioli tutorial</a> from AllRecipes. Or you could take a short-cut and use pre-made wonton wrappers to wrap up mixtures of ricotta and spinach, butternut squash, mashed green peas, and other easy ravioli fillings.</p> <p><em>What's your favorite pasta recipe?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="">Camilla Cheung</a> of <a href="">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Fresh vs. Frozen: 5 Dinner Comparisons</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">25 Quick, Cheap Lunch Ideas</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">20 Cheap and Easy Soup Recipes</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">15 Creative, Delicious Things You Can Make in a Blender</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Cheaper and Healthier Than Store-Bought: 10 Great Freeze-Ahead Burrito Recipes</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Food and Drink cheap dinner recipes pasta quick meals Mon, 12 Dec 2011 11:36:33 +0000 Camilla Cheung 818250 at Fresh vs. Frozen: 5 Dinner Comparisons <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/fresh-vs-frozen-5-dinner-comparisons" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src=" food aisle.jpg" alt="frozen food aisle" title="frozen food aisle" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="145" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I really love to cook. Recently, however, my work schedule was ridiculously busy, and I was getting home later and later. To get dinner on the table, I decided to try something completely out of character: frozen food. If you read my posts, you know that I&rsquo;m usually a die-hard do-it-yourself-er. I <a href="">make my own mayonnaise</a>, for crying out loud. Also, frozen foods tend to be high in sodium and fats, so I have, in the past, stayed clear.</p> <p>The beauty of frozen meals, though, is that they take about 15 minutes or less to heat. So on one of my dead-tired days, I took a trip down Walmart&rsquo;s frozen food aisle. There were a surprising number of frozen bags of food that looked pretty darn appetizing. I decided to give one of them a try. My husband and I thought it was fine for a busy-day dinner, rounded out with bread and salad. That experiment led me to wonder about the other brands and varieties, and we ended up trying five &ldquo;bagged&rdquo; dinners. (See also: <a href="">25 Ways to Use Frozen Spinach</a>)</p> <p>At first I wrote a post about my frozen-dinner taste-tests. In all honesty, it was pretty boring. Then I had an epiphany: I would make home-made versions of all the dinners we had tried and compare them to the store-bought versions. There was a challenge, and I do love a challenge.</p> <p>So, here are the results of my experiment &mdash; reviews of the frozen versions and their fresh counterparts. Of course, I could not find the <em>exact</em> recipes online, but I thought these versions were very close. Also, I live in Hawaii, so my prices are likely higher than mainland prices.</p> <h2>Stouffer&rsquo;s Teriyaki Chicken Skillet</h2> <ul> <li>Cost: $6.18</li> <li>Servings per container: 2</li> </ul> <p>My husband pronounced this entrée &ldquo;eminently edible.&rdquo; He has a good vocabulary. I don&rsquo;t, and I would say, &ldquo;It was okay, but next time I&rsquo;ll try microwaving it.&rdquo; This is because although I followed the directions exactly, the rice wanted to stick to the bottom of the skillet. I finally just let it steam for a few minutes, and then it came off. Also, the vegetables were a little overcooked.</p> <h3>Fresh Version</h3> <p>As far as time went, the homemade <a href="">teriyaki chicken with rice</a> lost, because you begin by marinating the chicken for two hours. Once the chicken was marinated, though, it went together in about a half an hour. For flavor, the homemade version won, hands down. I added a cup each of carrots, broccoli, and red peppers, plus one can of water chestnuts (and was careful not to overcook the vegetables). I was able to make dinner <em>plus</em> lunch the next day.</p> <h3>Cost Per Serving</h3> <ul> <li>Frozen: $3.09</li> <li>Fresh: $2.41</li> </ul> <p><strong>Winner</strong>: Fresh</p> <h2>Birds Eye Voila! Garlic Chicken</h2> <ul> <li>Cost: $4.18</li> <li>Servings per container: 2</li> </ul> <p>We both really liked this frozen dinner. With a tossed salad and some French bread, it was just great. The vegetables (assuming you follow the directions) are not overcooked, and the chicken really, um, tastes like chicken.</p> <h3>Fresh Version</h3> <p>The homemade <a href="">garlic chicken</a> tasted a LOT like the frozen version. It was very good and easy. However, I did a lot of tinkering with this recipe, starting by cutting it way down (1/4 lb. pasta and 1/4 lb. chicken). I also reduced the garlic to 1 tbsp and used a combination of 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of olive oil in place of 4 tbsp of butter. I added a cup each of broccoli, corn, and carrots. This went together fairly quickly, in under 45 minutes. Again, it made enough for four servings.</p> <h3>Cost Per Serving</h3> <ul> <li>Frozen: $2.09</li> <li>Fresh: $2.25</li> </ul> <p><strong>Winner:</strong> Draw</p> <h2>Birds Eye Voila! Three-Cheese Chicken</h2> <ul> <li>Cost: $4.18</li> <li>Servings per container: 2</li> </ul> <p>Basically, this is macaroni and cheese with vegetables and chicken. That is not a complaint! We both liked it and ate it all. Plus, the Birds Eye folks have this frozen veggie thing DOWN. No mushy stuff. Two thumbs up on the frozen.</p> <h3>Fresh Version</h3> <p>To use a texting expression, OMG. It was so good. Birds Eye calls their version &ldquo;three-cheese&rdquo; chicken, but if you look at the ingredients, there are actually four cheeses: Romano, cheddar, Parmesan, and blue cheese. I could not find a recipe close to this online, so I made up my own, adding 1 1/2 cups each of broccoli, corn, and carrots to 10 oz. of pasta. I sauteed 2 boneless chicken thighs and tossed the mixture with 1 cup of the mixed cheeses. My husband thought the blue cheese &ldquo;made&rdquo; the dish, and we could have eaten a ton of it. But we didn&rsquo;t, since there was enough for leftovers. It took about 45 minutes to put together.</p> <h3>Cost Per Serving</h3> <ul> <li>Frozen: $2.09</li> <li>Fresh: $2.24</li> </ul> <p><strong>Winner: </strong>FRESH, definitely</p> <h2>Bertolli Mediterranean Garlic Shrimp, Penne &amp; Cherry Tomatoes</h2> <ul> <li>Cost: $6.88</li> <li>Servings per container: 2</li> </ul> <p>The Bertolli packaging looked great, which convinced me to try it. (Yes, sometimes I buy wines by their labels and books by their covers, too.) This tasty meal contained swanky asparagus and shrimp, plus cherry tomatoes, in a great buttery garlic sauce with penne. The vegetables were surprisingly good. I hesitated a little when I saw the price &mdash; but I had also recently priced both frozen shrimp and asparagus, so I knew they were expensive. We would have liked to have more shrimp, but that is probably asking too much.</p> <h3>Fresh Version</h3> <p>&ldquo;Fine.&rdquo; How is that for a resounding review of this <a href="">shrimp and asparagus pasta</a>? To keep it frugal, I bought raw shrimp. That meant deveining and peeling, a cooking chore I don&rsquo;t enjoy. No, wait &mdash; I hate it. It <em>looked</em> a lot like the frozen version, but next time, I&rsquo;ll let the Bertolli people do all the work. Also problematic &mdash; it took forever to make. Well, maybe not forever, but the stupid shrimp alone took 20 minutes, and then it was another roughly 30 minutes of chopping, grating, and cooking. Sure, it made enough for leftovers, but it was only &ldquo;fine&rdquo; the second time around, too. I added a half cup of grape tomatoes to the recipe.</p> <h3>Cost Per Serving</h3> <ul> <li>Frozen: $3.44</li> <li>Fresh: $3.70</li> </ul> <p><strong>Winner:</strong> FROZEN. (Who wants to eat &ldquo;fine&rdquo;? BOR-ing.)</p> <h2>T.G.I. Friday&rsquo;s Sizzling Chicken Fajitas</h2> <ul> <li>Cost: $6.88</li> <li>Servings per container: 2</li> </ul> <p>Of all the packaged meals we tried, I was the most hesitant about this one. My husband is a big fan of fajitas, and I was worried that a frozen fajitas meal would not meet his criteria. I followed the directions exactly and heated up some fat-free refried beans to go on the side. Surprise! The fajitas were tasty. His words: &ldquo;Hey, it&rsquo;s not Chevy&rsquo;s, but it&rsquo;s good.&rdquo; (Chevy&rsquo;s is a west-coast chain of Tex-Mex restaurants.) He also thought I had to buy <a href="">tortillas</a> to go with them. Nope. I did take out some of the onions from the vegetable mix (there were just too many for me). These frozen fajitas were something you could really dress up, if you wanted, with guacamole, sour cream, cilantro, etc.</p> <h3>Fresh Version</h3> <p>The homemade <a href="">fajitas</a> really had a WOW factor. I was left wondering &quot;Why the heck haven&rsquo;t I been making these, all along?&quot; I had this incorrect idea in my head that they were hard to make. Not so. My husband said, &ldquo;Frozen, pretty good...versus fresh, VERY good.&rdquo; It went together in about 45 minutes, and I have to admit there was a lot of chopping. I cut it down to a four-serving size, though, and we made breakfast burritos the next day out of the leftover filling and scrambled eggs.</p> <h3>Cost Per Serving</h3> <ul> <li>Frozen: $3.44</li> <li>Fresh:&nbsp;$2.73</li> </ul> <p><b>Winner:</b> &iexcl;FRESCO!</p> <p>My ending thoughts? Unless you are the <a href="">Enjoli woman</a>, go ahead and give yourself a weeknight break with one of these frozen meals.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="">Marla Walters</a> of <a href="">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Cheaper and Healthier Than Store-Bought: 10 Great Freeze-Ahead Burrito Recipes</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Oodles of Noodles: 25 Ways to Prepare Pasta</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">25 Quick, Cheap Lunch Ideas</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Breaking the Bread Code: How to Get the Freshest Loaf</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">20 Cheap and Easy Soup Recipes</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Food and Drink cheap dinner recipes eating fresh frozen food quick meals tv dinners Tue, 19 Apr 2011 13:37:34 +0000 Marla Walters 522987 at