This recipe was inspired by The Jerk. Just after college, I was living on my own for the first time with Beau and his brother Sean. We were watching the scene where Steve Martin's character enjoys "pizza-in-a-cup" and were simultaneously amused and inspired. We decided that pizza in a cup could be delicious, and I took it as a challenge to try to make it. I decided to take all of our favorite pizza toppings: pepperoni or sausage, peppers, mushrooms, olives, onions, and combine them with tomato sauce, cheese, and pasta. And thus, our favorite post-college food was born: pizza pasta. It was easy to make and could feed two big hungry guys and me for days on the cheap. (Ridiculously, I would actually double the batch back then to ensure that we had a ton of food.)
Truthfully, this is the kind of food that's great for kids or college students. After years of pretending to be too grown up and sophisticated to make it, I finally made it again today, and although my husband and I are legit adults--I'm a professor, in fact--we had no shame in enjoying this again. It's totally flexible, just add your favorite pizza toppings (except maybe pineapple!).
1 onion, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
2 t Italian seasoning
1 t salt
1 t salt
crushed red pepper and black pepper to taste
1 12-16 oz package pasta (whole wheat is fine. I like bow tie or shells)1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/3 cup Parmesan
optional add-ins (pick 2 or more): ½ to 1 lb Italian sausage or pepperoni (turkey is fine; cut into bite-sized pieces); 1 bell pepper, diced; 8-12 oz sliced fresh mushrooms; 1 jalapeno; 6 oz can sliced black olives
Heat two large saucepans. In one, boil pasta. In the second, saute meat, if using, and vegetables until lightly caramelized. Add remaining ingredients (except cheese) and simmer for about 10 minutes, until pasta is ready. Drain pasta and combine with sauce, adding a little water or pasta cooking liquid if it seems dry. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. Serves 9
***UPDATE: Inspired by the pasta wonderpot trend, I recently converted this to a one-pot recipe and it worked great! Just follow the instructions above, except do not boil the pasta separately. Prepare the sauce, then add two cups of water, and add dry pasta. Simmer gently, covered, for approximately 20 minutes, stirring frequently until pasta is al dente and most of the liquid is absorbed.