How to: Make a Meal for Company in a Pinch

I hosted my parents for dinner last night unexpectedly. If anyone knows me, they know I like to plan ahead. Last minute plans are usually met with a “no”. I need time to mentally prepare for a social outing. Sometimes if I have too much time to mull it over, I end up not even going out. Ah, the wonders of being a hermit. 

Yesterday afternoon, my mom and I were organizing my new house and emptying boxes. As we were about to head out to the store, my mom locked her keys in the trunk of her car. Rather, I locked her keys in there. She had set them down while loading the trunk up with clothes and other gadgets I was getting rid of. After she walked away, I shut the trunk and waited for her to unlock the car. Only she couldn’t. Because I had shut the trunk without thinking. Our stupidity yesterday was definitely a team effort. My mom and I are always getting ourselves into trouble.  

Since we had to wait an hour for a cop to come by and get her keys out, I had no dinner plans and we were all starving. My husband came home and my dad was on his way over with the spare key, so I figured I might as well feed everyone. I took a look in the fridge and this is what I came up with, with what I had. 

Ziti with Sausage and Tomato Sauce 

Caprese Salad 

Ziti with Sausage and Tomato Sauce 

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 

3/4 lb ground sausage, no casing 

1/2 onion, chopped 

3 cloves garlic, chopped 

1 32-oz can crushed tomatoes 

2 tsp Herbes de Provence 

1 lb dried pasta of your choice 

Begin with some olive oil on high heat. Add your sausage in small tea spoon dollips into the pan. The smaller the pieces, the more crisp the meat gets. Allow the meat to sizzle and brown deeply in the pan before agitating with a wooden spoon. You should see some deep browning happening, and a fond forming on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes. 

Reduce the heat to medium low. Add your onions and cook for 4-5 minutes until translucent, then add your garlic. Saute until fragrant. 

Once you can smell the garlic, add a can of crushed tomatoes. You may need to add up to 1/2 cup of water, depending on how juicy your tomatoes are. Just fill the same tomato can with water and pour it into the pan. No need to dirty up a measuring cup. 

Turn the heat down to low. Add your herbs and cook 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally. I like to cover the sauce at this stage, but you don’t have to. Salt and pepper to taste. 

Meanwhile, cook your pasta per the package instructions. When al dente, toss into the sauce and enjoy! 

Caprese Salad for a Crowd 

1 large heirloom tomato, sliced 

1 fresh mozzerella ball, sliced the same thickness as the tomato 

1 bunch fresh basil leaves 

2 tablespoons extra virgin oilve oil 

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 

Salt and pepper to taste 

Arrange all of the slices on a platter, starting with tomato, alternating with cheese. You can do a straight line of caprese, or in a circle if you are using a circular platter. Be creative. 

Next add your basil leaves randomly and organically, putting some leaves in between tomato and cheese slices 

Drizzle your olive oil, then your balsamic over the top. Sprinkle finally with some salt and pepper 

I also threw in some frozen garlic bread from the store, and voila! We have a meal suitable for company, but yummy enough to be comforting. You might say there is too much tomato in this meal, and to that I say, you’re not wrong. Enjoy!