Thursday, August 19, 2010

Budget Wise Dinner for 2: Seasonal Pasta – Sausage and Zucchini Fettuccine

Late summer is delicious. The days are a little bit cooler, the evenings are fresh and beautiful and in Ontario, as around the country, the bounty of the harvest is pouring in to stores and markets everywhere and screams to be eaten.

Growing up, we always had a variety of fruits and vegetables on our table and in our fridge. My maternal grandparents owned and operated a fruit market, and my Mom worked there. Fruits and vegetables were the family business you could say, and this helped me learn at an early age the importance of buying fresh, local produce. It also means that I'm blessed with a well developed knowledge of which fruits and veggies are in season when, which not only helps me eat produce at its finest, but it also helps me save money too. Here is a link to a Foodland Ontario Chart which indicates what is in season when.

Mid-August is prime zucchini season. I know you've all heard about this miracle crop that seems to multiply like rabbits in your garden. It's a pretty versatile veggie; good on its own sautéed a little bit, but is also good shredded up in things like lasagna, as nutritious filler. Tonight it is one of the stars of a pasta dish I like to make in the summer, once the humidity has passed, and I'm starting to crave the comfort foods of fall again.
Zucchini - the miraculous multiplying vegetable!
Normally, I try and avoid leftovers like the plague. I don't enjoy eating the same thing, or a variation thereof, all week. However, pasta dishes are an exception. They are a delight the next day for lunch after the sauce has had a chance to soak in. stomach is growling thinking about it now!

So, on to the recipe, which made a dinner for two, with leftovers, for only $8 (price breakdown below).

Sausage and Zucchini Fettuccine
1 package of Mild Italian Sausages, removed from casings, and crumbled (about 5 dinner sized links)
1/4 medium Sweet Onion, chopped
1 clove Garlic, minced
28 oz. tin of Crushed, Stewed or Diced tomatoes (I used crushed)
2 small Zucchini, green or yellow will work (I used both)
1 package of Fresh Fettucine, or 1/2 package of Dried Fettucine
S&P,to taste
Canola Oil,as needed
Honey or Sugar,as needed.

1. Heat a large frying pan to medium high and add the crumbled sausage. You may need to break this up further with a wooden spoon. Brown the sausage for about 5 minutes.

Kind of like sausage meatballs.
2. If the sausage hasn't released many drippings, add about a tbsp. of oil. Then add onions and garlic and sauté for 3-5 minutes.

3. Add the tin of tomatoes. If you’re using diced or stewed, break up with back of wooden spoon. Stir well and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Simmering dinner.
4. Add sliced zucchini and cook for an additional 8-10 minutes. Seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. If you find the sauce too acidic add a big squeeze of honey, or a tablespoon or two of sugar. Sounds weird, but trust me, it works.

Cook your pasta at this time too.

5. When your pasta is done, mix the whole mess together so that the pasta can absorb a bit of the sauce. Then serve with some parmesan cheese on top if you like.


Price breakdown as follows:

Sausage $1.99 (on sale)
Zucchini $0.70 (on sale, and in season)
Onion $0.25 (whole onion $0.98)
Tin of Crushed Tomatoes $1.59
Fresh Pasta $3.49
S&P, Oil and Garlic Freebies (These are likely in your pantry)
Total Cost $8.02

Note: If you have dried pasta on hand, use it and you’ll further reduce the cost of your meal to about $6.50.

Delicious, seasonal food, using local produce is possible on a budget – you just need to know when things are in season, and take advantage of sales when they happen.

Happy Eating!


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