Light Chicken Ragu with Shells (serves 6) And a Word on Economy!

Here is a great pasta dish that feeds a crowd without spending a ton of money! Even if you are very well off and budgeting for food is not high on your list, I think there is always room for economy. When it comes to food, I am mindful of every scrap I decide to put into my shopping basket. Someone, somewhere in the world is hungry so buying food is a privilege that shouldn’t be taken lightly by anyone, regardless of their income.

Chicken Ragu with Shells

Light Chicken Ragu with Shells

With a little bit of though, the most lowly ingredients can be made to taste delicious, and this recipe is a prime example of Deliciousness and Economy.

When I sit around with my family over dinner we sometimes play the game of “how much did this dinner cost?” I really think it is important for my kids to have an understanding of how money plays a part in their lives but that it is certainly not the thing that defines their ultimate happiness. And this is not a big philosophical commentary on how money can’t buy you love etc etc. It is a very practical matter to me when it comes to equating quality food with money: I just don’t. 

My CSA Crop share this week!

Fresh Veggies from a local Farmer

My two children love that something can be made from so little and it excites them to think that as a very general rule, most people can afford to choose something good to eat over something mediocre.  How many times have we gone to restaurants and my kids leave saying that they could have had something better at home and not wasted money. To me, buying a nice bottle of wine and eating at home is far more satisfying than eating out.

That’s not to say that when the opportunity arises to eat some place fantastic that we don’t jump at the chance. What I am trying to say is that there is a difference between eating crap (whether bought ready-made crap, or from a crappy restaurant) or making it a rule to eat at home prepared with decent ingredients and eating out when you have chosen some place wonderful (this could be a crab shack on a beach or a fancy place in a city somewhere).

lots of peppers from my garden & from next door!

lots of peppers from my garden & from next door!

There are so many places to find good ingredients for very little. Besides shopping for bargains in the supermarket, there are all sorts of people in the summer and autumn selling produce from their own gardens: vegetables, fresh eggs, even meat. I have the puny-est garden myself but I grow as much as I can in the summer (especially herbs) to add to my meals. I’m not even that good at it but I get no end of pleasure out of whatever appears, however sad it may look!

The savior of last night's dinner (oregano & parsley)

Oregano from my garden (and a modest bit of parsley)

So maybe you might consider cooking a couple of times this week and be smug over how good it tastes and how much you saved!

This dinner cost (not including the fuel cost)

Meat – $4.99

Veggies – (garlic, carrot, onion., spinach – $2.25

Pasta – $0.99

Tomato puree  – $0.75

Broth (I used a bouillon cube & Water) $0.50

Milk – $0.44

Total $9.92 (that’s $1.65 per person)

Rosemary bush in the back garden

My mother’s rosemary Bush in Ireland

____________________________________________

You will need:

3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1lb Chicken sausage, removed from casing (I found a sausage seasoned with apple and onion, but there are lots of other ones out there, like a take on an Italian sausage or one with garlic & herbs)

1 med/lrg sweet onion

3 cloves garlic

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup chopped celery, including leaves

1 tbs mixed chopped fresh herbs (use whatever you have on hand)

OR 1 tsp dried herbs (again whatever you have on hand)

1/2 tsp chili flakes (optional)

1/2 tsp sea-salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup tomato puree

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

5 cups chopped spinach or baby spinach leaves

1lb medium pasta shells (I use Barilla brand)

Method:

1 – Put big saute pan or saucepan on medium heat and add the oil. Add the onions, garlic, and celery and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn heat up slightly and add the sausage and as it cook, break it up into smaller pieces with your wooden spoon. Cook for about 10 minutes.

Cook veggies, add meat

Cook veggies, add meat

2 – Add the tomato puree, broth, herbs, pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and carrots to the pot and bring everything to a simmer. Cover with lid and simmer for about 25 minutes (the sauce should always have a slight bubble to it while it is cooking). Stir occasionally.

*In the meantime put water on for pasta and cook according to instructions. time the shells to be ready at the same time the sauce is cooked. Scoop out about a 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining and do not rinse shells in cold water.

add liquids

Add liquids

3 – Add the spinach and cover with lid. Cook for another 3 minutes. Turn off heat and stir sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Cook sauce, then add spinach

Cook sauce, then add spinach

4 – When pasta is ready pour the drained pasta directly into the cooked sauce, adding the pasta water if you want a looser consistency.

Serve

Serve

Divide between 6 warmed plates or bowls and pass some Parmigiano Reggiano to anyone who wants it!

One response to “Light Chicken Ragu with Shells (serves 6) And a Word on Economy!

  1. Céline Trudel

    Well put Tess and beside your food always test a million boxe !

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