Wild Child at Naked Opinions posed a frugal friend challenge a few weeks back and I promised I would participate, but honestly I haven't found anything really great that I want to put my name on as simple, fast, and inexpensive. So I am submitting my old trusty pasta with seven cheeses bake. I have no idea the cost per serving, but I usually have most of the ingredients in my house. I will say that I have eaten a similar dish at a super yummy Italian restaurant that was a hefty $18.00 a plate. This whole meal was probably less than that with plenty of leftovers.
I discovered this recipe several years back while watching The Barefoot Contessa on the food network. I changed it up a bit and now feel comfortable calling it my own. This is a great one to make the day before and pop in the oven after work. I have used Rigatoni, but this weekend I made it with medium shells instead and I must say that the shells worked very well because they trap in the sauce and the cheese so it is a little easier for the little ones to eat.
Now for the recipe:
1 box of pasta rigatoni, mezza-rigatoni, shells, whatever is in the pantry.
1 pound of Italian sausage or ground beef spiced up with a little red pepper flakes and garlic
2 cans of diced tomatoes
1 cup heavy cream
handful of capers (little green things that looks like peas but taste like olives)
fresh mushrooms, sliced
fresh basil, torn and some for the top
1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup mix of Italian shredded cheeses (yeah I cheated, I usually grate my own but for this recipe I buy the shredded Sargento 6 cheese Italian)
1 ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced. Save a few slices for the top.
salt (very little is needed with all of the cheese) and pepper
Brown the meat and cook the pasta to slightly al dente because it will be going in the oven. Once the pasta and meat are cooked and drained dump everything into a big bowl and mix until well Incorporated. Spoon into a baking dish and top with slices of fresh mozzarella and fresh basil. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes covered, then remove the cover for 10 more minutes until the top is golden. Add more baking time if cooking from frozen or out of the fridge. This makes a huge batch so I usually make one big one and a small one to put in the freezer for a night when hubby's home alone with the kids. I serve this with a steamed vegetable and some warmed bread.
If any of you have a great family friendly meal you would like to share head on over to Wild Child's blog.