Whether we are aware of it or not, each one of us has a go-to meal. You know the one. It usually comes out midweek, after a long day of work, when your brain is just too fried to come up with an original idea for dinner. You either have the ingredients on hand at all times in your pantry, fridge and/or freezer or you are able to quickly zoom into the grocery store and mindlessly head for exactly the right aisle, avoiding all unnecessary grocery shopping.

For some folks, the go-to girl is a frozen pizza, box of mac and cheese or just heading out to dinner. While I do not deny the pleasures of DiGiorno, I think it is important that we all develop a repertoire of homemade go-to-girls. Processed, prepackaged and restaurant foods are expensive. As most of us are busy people, if we didn’t have a go-to girl, we would be spending a fortune feeding ourselves each week.

For my mother, one of her go-to-girls was breaded and pan sautéed chicken. She would pound out the boneless chicken breasts, dip them in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs and finally would sauté them in butter with a squeeze of lemon. So simple, yet it is one of my favorite menu memories from childhood.

So how does one create a repertoire of go-to-girls? Luckily you probably already have one. Think about what you cook most often. It will likely not be the most exciting food, but it will be comforting and usually quick. What are the meals that you could sleepwalk through? These are your go-to-girls. Write them down on a list and keep it in your wallet. That way, the next time you are stumped for what to make for dinner, you can just pull out that list for easy ideas.

Your go-to-girls list will change as your tastes change or as the seasons change. Last year I made a simple coconut milk curry at least twice a month. This year I haven’t had a taste for it, but instead started making soups with white beans and greens. One go-to-girl that has been consistent for many years is my pasta with veggies and sausage. It takes me about 30 minutes. I often have the ingredients, but if I don’t, the grocery shopping is quick and easy. Making this dish requires no mental strain whatsoever and when I sit down with it, I feel like I’m eating a big bowl of love.

Pasta with Sausage and Veggies

Italian sausage is one of the staples in my freezer. I love to buy the individual sausages, cut open the casing and add a little to soups, pasta or even put it on a frozen pizza. I like to buy the ones from the grocery store deli counter. They weigh about ¼ #  lb. each. If you can’t find them there, you can buy Johnsonville or any other brand in the meat section. Just make sure when freezing any extras, you leave a little space between them in the freezer bag prior to freezing. That way they won’t be stuck together. These are the amounts that I use when I cook. Feel free to add more or less based on your appetite.

1 Italian Sausage (about ¼ lb.), hot or mild

1 ½ tsp Olive oil

½ small Yellow Onion, chopped

1 clove Garlic, minced

3 large Mushrooms, sliced

1 Roma Tomato, seeded and diced (about ½ c)

½ c uncooked Tube Pasta, such as Penne or Rigatoni

Parmesan Cheese

Salt

  • Place a pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Add 1 1/2 Tsp salt for 2 quarts water.*
  • While water comes to a boil, heat sauté pan to medium heat. Add oil, onions and garlic. Sauté until onion begins to become translucent, ~ 5-10 minutes.
  • Cut casing off sausage and add sausage to pan. I like to flatten the sausage out, cook it on one side, flip it and then crumble it as the other side cooks.
  • While sausage cooks, add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  • When sausage is nearly cooked add the mushrooms and cook for another 3 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes and sauté for 3-5 minutes longer.
  • Add pasta to veggies and sausage and toss. Place in a bowl and top with Parmesan Cheese.

*For a good laugh search “salted water for boiling” on epicurious.com and read the reviews.

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