The Challenge: Day Twenty-Six

It was pasta night at the old homestead. If I were some inane host on FoodTV, I’d start in on some story about having a movie night and how Goodfellas is one of my favorite movies (it is, actually) and try passing off some horrid combination of flavors as a meal as I yammered away incessantly using stupid baby-like talk and waved my arms around like I was landing a plane.

Fortunately for all of us, I am not one of those hosts. Instead, I’ll just give you the lowdown on the meal.

My plan for the day was to make some baguettes, make the sauce, make some tofu meatballs, and then make the pasta. The “real” meatballs, as you noticed, were already made and they froze very well overnight.

As plans go, it wasn’t terrible. The day, however, did not cooperate as well as it could have. A few people got their sites hacked, there were questions to answer, one of the servers has a primary drive dying a slow and painful death and we had to plan for emergency migrations from it, my tube is just killing me the past few days, and I ran out of gas a little after 3 this afternoon and had to shut down for about half an hour for a nap. Oh, and in the midst of dinner prep, we had to go look at a house, so this introduced another kink in my plans and between fatigue and pain I was a tad stressed in getting dinner completed.

Even with all this, though, I did manage to get everything done except for making the pasta. Luckily, I’m the planner, and I had emergency backup pasta on hand.

The sauce I would judge: excellent. I think it could be used interchangeably on pizza and pasta, and I plan to make a large batch and can it. The meatballs: fabulous. The combination of meats and the seasonings in them give them a great taste. The baguettes: fair. They were in the French style, so were thinner than the usual baguettes you might find at Publix. We also ran into a multitasking problem because the pasta water was boiling over furiously while the bread was under the broiler (smeared with roasted garlic butter, thank you), so the bread got a little crispy. Still edible, though. Our vegetarian friends loved the tofu meatballs and there were a few left over, so we sent those home with them in some sauce. Fresh strawberry ice cream rounded out this meal.

In the foreground are the tofu meatballs, at the top the meatballs made of a mixture of beef, veal, and pork. At the left is some freshly grated parm-reg. In the middle are the split and broiled baguettes with roasted garlic butter and at the middle right is the great homemade sauce. At the upper right is some multigrain spaghetti (Barilla, if you’re interested).

Gratuitous happy cat photo.

Your cook, tired and in pain, but happy that everyone enjoyed the meal.

Our breakdown for tonight’s meal:

Pasta (store-bought, multigrain): 2.99
Meatballs: 3.15
Bread: 1.40
Tofu meatballs: 2.99
Sauce: 2.17
Ice cream: 2.09

Total meal: 14.79
Total per diner (6, with leftovers): 2.47

Pasta is cheap, cheap, cheap, and would have been even cheaper had I made it fresh. We did uncork a bottle of wine, as well: Chateau Lamargue 2003 Costieres de Nimes Rouge. Quite good, with cherry aromas and a smooth finish (although my sister disagrees with me on the latter, and since I only had a taste and she had a full pour, she may be right).

A good dinner, with good company, at a good price. What more could one ask?

The curd

I will admit up front that I am not a huge fan of tofu. Tofu, on its own, has no particular taste to it: it serves merely as a sponge for other flavors and has no inherent life of its own.

This is not a bad thing, of course, as no doubt there is a place for it in this world. I’d never have thought there was a place for it in my kitchen. But we have vegetarians (or sort of vegetarians – they eat seafood but no meats) joining us for our pasta fest this evening, so today I’ll be making tofu meatballs. For the first time ever. Let’s hope that I don’t do any damage to these very nice people.

The question for me now becomes how the heck to make the things. I’m guessing that with some firm tofu, the mix can be very similar to what I did with the beef/pork/veal meatballs, maybe with a bit more bread crumb mixture as binder. Baked rather than browned in a frying pan, then set aside for the veggie minded. Or hell, maybe fried in a touch of olive oil and then set aside. Who knows? The great fun about cooking is in the experimentation, right?

If you’re in the mood for pasta, with either meat-meatballs or faux-meatballs, feel free to stop by. I’m sure there will be plenty. The poolish (starter) for the baguettes is sitting on the counter, evolving into something great. And we have fresh strawberry ice cream for dessert. Who can resist that?