Food Waste: Leftover Pasta Bake

Global food waste has gotten quite a bit of press lately. According to the EPA, 35 million tons of food are thrown out in the United States alone. Forty percent of food that is grown or produced doesn’t even reach the consumer to begin with. This is obviously an international, national, state, county, and city problem, but the problem of food waste happens in each and every one of our homes as well. My kitchen is no exception. I really try to make use of everything in our fridge, and I really try hard not to waste usable parts of ingredients (see posts about  baked chicken or homemade veggie stock), but it’s not always possible. There are times when food doesn’t get eaten or ingredients aren’t prepared in time. When not protein, I compost so it doesn’t go into the trash, but it would be better to consume the food.

I needed to make space in my fridge today, so I went in and took out everything that might go together. Here is what I came up with:

Leftover Ingredients

  • leftover bow-tie pasta (almost a pound uncooked)
  • leftover cheeses (brie, cheddar, shredded parmesan, shaved parmesan, hard parmesan)
  • 1/2 onion
  • leftover grilled asparagus
  • leftover assorted olives
  • about 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 3 end pieces from bread loaves
  • opened can of tomato paste

Fresh Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • pepper

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Pit the olives, chop up, and set aside. Then toast the bread and buzz them up in a food processor (I used our Vitamix) to make bread crumbs. I added some of the shaved parmesan, shredded parmesan, and parsley to the breadcrumbs and set it aside for the topping.

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Dice up the onions, celery, and garlic. Sautee them in a little olive oil. Chop up the asparagus and add it to the pot with some pepper.

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Put the milk and all the cheeses into a small pot. Let it melt together over medium-low heat.

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To the sauteeing vegetable pot, add 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 can of diced tomatoes, and let simmer for a few minutes.

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Be sure to stir the cheese mixture often. Once it’s all melted together, add it to the vegetable mixture. Then add the parsley, olives, and pasta. Then put the whole mixture in an oven-proof dish. Cover with the bread crumb mixture.

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Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or so until the top is nicely browned.

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The dish turned out tasty and we felt good eating it, knowing that it was made up of “leftover” or “would-be-compost” items in the fridge. I encourage you to challenge yourself – take a look in your fridge and pantry and see what tasty dishes you can come up with!

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