Another friend over for dinner, another excuse to get busy in the kitchen!
I was trying to find a way to use up a few ingredients I seem to always have hanging around: cheese, milk and bread crumbs. Strange combination but a true story. This recipe seemed the perfect way to kill 3 ingredients with one dinner.
I think next time I will add more pasta to this dish. It only calls for 1 1/2 cups of rotini, but I do love pasta and it seemed to me that the pasta got overwhelmed by the vegetables in the finished product form.
I was pleased with my choice of meat for this recipe. I waffled for a long time in the deli section before picking up a hunk of summer sausage. My trouble was: not all of the packages say that the meat is cooked so I looked first at the ones labelled so but didn't like any of them particularly. I thought long and hard and finally came to the conclusion that summer sausage is most likely cooked (in the form that I bought it) because I've seen people open it, cut it and eat it straight away. Mind you, I do that with hot dogs which aren't pre-cooked but that's not the point.
As for the creamy sauce, I am very pleased to tell you that I finally made a lump-free version! Turns out the secret ingredient is ridiculous amounts of patience. That, and one heck of a lot of whisking. The arm cramps will be worth it, however, when your masterpiece is nice and smooth. I was particularly happy that mine didn't taste like flour this time. I've done that before...
I didn't substitute anything major in this recipe. I used 1% milk that I already had, marble cheese for the same reason, salted butter, prefab parmesan cheese (too cheap to buy the real stuff often), a non-Italian-specific bag of frozen vegetables (I dislike most of the Italian-specific vegetables) and breadcrumbs with Italian seasoning built into them.
One piece of feedback that I did get from the diners is that I might want to tone down the cayenne pepper a bit next time. My tongue was tingling, yes, so I'll take that advice to heart. I admit it was a "rough" 1/2 tsp that I measured out in a hurry.
I probably wouldn't recommend this dish if you're watching your fat intake or weight in general. I mean, it's not horribly bad for you, but there is a lot of butter and cheese involved. If you're looking for a hot, vegetable-loaded creamy baked pasta dish with a nice crunchy topping, then I fully recommend this one!