I want it to be known that I had big plans for April Fool's Day this year. Seriously big plans.
I'm talking about the kind of plans that involve re-making the most horrific vintage recipe I could possibly find. Something like bananas wrapped in ham and smothered in hollandaise or a glorious Jell-O mold filled with assorted oddities, and photographing it all for posterity.
But that was before our world got turned upside down.
Now that I'm trying to limit my trips to the grocery store to once per week while also cooking three meals a day from scratch, it just didn't feel right to be using precious time and ingredients to cook a potentially inedible meal for the sake of humour. (Even if we could all use a good laugh right about now.)
So instead of a practical joke, how about we go with a really practical recipe instead?
A Perfect Last-Minute Pantry Recipe
This pasta bake falls into a category I like to call Desperation Dinners. They're easy dishes that I can throw together using a few ingredients I always have on hand, perfect for those weeknights when I just don't feel like cooking but still want something delicious.
This, my friends, is the mother of all Desperation Dinners, because I can literally make it at a moment's notice.
The only ingredients you really need to have are canned tomatoes, canned beans, dried pasta, Italian sausages, and some grated cheese.
Everything else is pretty much optional. Don't have onions or garlic? Skip 'em. Only have whole tomatoes instead of diced? Chop 'em up and carry on. No mozzarella? Use more Parmesan!
Bottom line, this is delicious belly-warming comfort food with a minimum of fuss, which is exactly what you need in your life right now.
Variations on This Recipe
Swap Out the Beans: Don't have romano beans in the pantry? Try using white cannelini beans or chickpeas instead.
Add in More Vegetables: Add a few more servings of vegetables by stirring a package of frozen chopped spinach into the sauce (thawed and well-drained, obvs) or add a cup of sliced bell peppers to the pan while you're browning the sausage.
Spice It Up: Satisfy your inner chili-head by adding a generous pinch of hot pepper flakes or a spoonful of La Bomba sauce to the finished sauce to spice things up.
Skip the Oven: If you're feeling really lazy, simmer together all of the sauce ingredients for 15 minutes or until slightly thickened, then spoon onto cooked pasta. Finish with a sprinkle of Parmesan and call it a day!
More Easy Pantry Dishes
Looking for more Desperation Dinners to help you get dinner on the table without hitting the grocery store? Here are some of my favourites:
- Quick Salmon Chowder
- Thai Tomato Soup with Coconut Milk
- Red Lentil Patties with Spicy Tomato Jam
- Braised Peas with Eggs and Chourico
- Chickpea and Sweet Potato Curry
This easy pasta bake can be thrown together using a handful of basic staples from your pantry and freezer. It's the perfect solution to your weeknight what-do-I-make-for-dinner blues.
- 1 package (500g / 1 lb) short pasta, such as penne or rigatoni
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb hot Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can (796 ml / 28 oz) diced tomatoes
- 1 can (540 ml / 15oz) romano beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Chopped fresh basil or parsley, for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350F. Cook the pasta according to package directions.
- While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. In a large skillet set over medium-high heat. brown the sausage and onion in olive oil for 5-7 minutes, or until the sausage starts to brown and the onion is soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer, or until fragrant. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice, drained beans, oregano, salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
- Once the pasta is done, drain and stir into the sauce. Transfer to a 13x9-inch casserole dish, and top off with mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and cheese is golden brown. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of chopped basil or parsley.
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 25 mins
- Category: Mains
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: Italian