Clean-out-the-fridge pasta with super secret cream cheese ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

01 October 2013

Clean-out-the-fridge pasta with super secret cream cheese

tomato zucchini cream cheese pasta

It's almost fall! Even here in CA the weather is beginning to actually turn. The high today was only 72F! I know this seems like nothing to those of you who live in, say, Wisconsin, but when it's ALL SUN 79F FOREVER, you get to appreciate even the smallest shifts in temperature. I can wear long sleeves! I can wear long sleeves AND a jacket! Oh man. It's the greatest.

But guess what? We aren't going to be spending October, jewel of fall, in California. We're going to Portland for the month.

You know what that means. ACTUAL WEATHER.

For once it's going to be actually cool and grey enough on my birthday. It's going to rain. I'm going to wear not only a jacket, but a waterproof one with a hood and sleeves. There will be real in-season pumpkin and apples and pears, and I'll go to the coffeeshop with my laptop (I am still working the whole month, of course) and do my writing or marketing or consulting with a cup of hot cider and a furled umbrella on the floor next to me.

But in the meantime, we've been trying to eat everything in the fridge. So the other day I grabbed some tomatoes from the pile still on the kitchen windowsill. A rifle through the crisper revealed some wilting hot red peppers, a scraggly handful of parsley, a lonely carrot, and half a zucchini. There's always pasta in the cabinet. And what did I spy in the drawer? A quarter of a package of cream cheese! Perfect.

Adding cream cheese to a basic tomato and veg pasta sauce is one of my favorite tricks ever for quick creamy goodness. So fast! So easy! No making a roux or hoarding half a pint of heavy cream! It's just a couple big spoonfuls of soft cheese, dissolving beautifully to turn the tomato sauce a glorious salmon pink. NOM.

tomato zucchini cream cheese pasta

Clean-out-the-fridge pasta with super secret cream cheese

pasta (we used rigatoni)
olive oil
hot peppers, red or otherwise
oregano, basil, marjoram
salt, pepper
cream cheese/neufchatel/sub of choice
parsley to garnish

Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta and cook it at an appropriate moment.

In a large saute pan, warm a slug of olive oil. Toss in some chopped onion, stir, and cook to soften while you smash and mince your garlic, finely chop as many hot peppers as you like and scrub and shred a carrot. When the onion has started to turn a bit glassy, toss your garlic, peppers, and carrot into the pan. Season with oregano, basil, marjoram if you want some, and a couple good pinches of salt. Then stir the whole shebang together and cook.

If you still have fresh summer tomatoes, now is the time to cook them and eat them. Core them, chop them up, and add them to the pan when your onions are fully softened. You can also use tomato puree or sauce if tomato season is over at your house; it's all good. Stir everything up, add a touch more salt, and cook those tomatoes down.

While you're waiting, slice up some zucchini. When your tomato has reduced sufficiently, add your zucchini. Cook for maybe another five minutes, or until your zucchini is tender and any extraneous juices have evaporated. Correct the seasonings and you're almost done.

Take the pan off the heat and add as much cream cheese or reasonable substitute as you like, cut into chunks. Bury the bits in the hot sauce and leave them for a minute, so they melt, before you stir to mix. If you happen to have some other creamy and easily meltable cheese around--goat cheese, for example--you can use that instead. Or use both! ALL DAIRY ALL THE TIME.

Drain your finished pasta and add it to the sauce. Stir everything together and serve, scattered with bits of parsley.

Eat it all with health and vigor, and a green salad on the side. Hooray! We have delicious food, and the refrigerator is that much closer to cleaned out!

Now the real question is: who wants to meet up in Portland?


Michelle said...

For a month?! AWESOME! So much time to catch up on all the places you didn't get to see last time. AND WEATHER. ALL THE WEATHER. You just missed the remnants of the typhoon that hit Japan. This weekend was ridiculous. The leaves are just starting to turn. And rain. So much rain.

SO FUN! What part of town are you guys staying? (feel free to email me if you don't want to say here)

Super secret cream cheese is the best. I like goat cheese for similar reasons (also because I likely have that more than cream cheese)

Anonymous said...

Cream cheese is my favorite sneak ingredient on just about anything! We have a pasta similar to this about once a month. I hope you love Portland- I've always wanted to go!

Elizabeth said...

What a good secret weapon/tip with the cream cheese I shall have to try it.

ashley - Baker by Nature said...

Pasta!!! Yummy. I could totally get down on a big bowl of this! xo

Eileen said...

DEFINITELY AWESOME. We are here, & staying mostly in NE, off Sandy (I know this narrows down approximately nothing, but still). So much rain & Portland fooding! FUN FOR ALL. Michelle, do you want to have lunch or something? I'll email you once we've found our footing. :)

Haley @ Cheap Recipe Blog said...

Ooh, this looks so good! Love the idea of putting cream cheese in it for extra creaminess.
I'm with you on the fall weather.. I'm not a hot weather girl, and I live for the days I can wear sweaters, leggings, and boots. Like today - my birthday! Rainy, drizzly, and mid-60's here in MN.

Sippity Sup said...

You grow potatoes? Do you live in Idaho? XOGREG

Jes said...

Portland for the month?! You hit the jackpot chica! Oh man, you better be posting your adventures to fill us all in.

And yessss I'm am so all about throwing cream cheese to make a last minute creamy pasta sauce. The best. Seriously.