Sunday, April 4, 2010

Tortellini and Four Cheese Sauce in the style of La Trattoria

And we're back from vacation in Key West, a week that was too fast and not at all cheap, but very, very good.  One thing I brought with me is inspiration for delicious and inexpensive recipes.

Possibly my favorite Italian restaurant in the world is La Trattoria, located on Duval Street in Key West.  They have a wonderful Tortellini alla Romana with tomatoes, peas, and smoked ham, that I have to have at least once per trip "down island."

My own version is, well, not theirs, but it is enough to keep hopes alive for the next trip to Key West.  And, if I do say so myself, it is pretty darn good.

Tortellini and Four Cheese Sauce
1 c. whole milk ($0.37 at Trader Joe's)
8 oz Quattro Formaggio ($2.86 at TJ's)
1 package pesto-filled tortellini ($2.99 at TJ's)
1 pint tomatoes (canned from last year's garden)
Scant cup ham (frozen leftover from previous holiday meal)
Diced carrots (overwintered in garden; I don't have fresh peas yet)

Cook tomatoes, ham, and carrots together until carrots are tender.  Meanwhile, boil pasta until just under al dente (it will cook more when combined). 

Melt 8oz. of cheese in one cup whole milk until sauce consistency; you may have to add a tablespoon or two of flour to thicken to your desired thickness.  Season with fresh cracked black pepper. 

Combine all ingredients in saute pan and cook until blended. 

The Analysis:

Fast:  The recipe took less than a half an hour to make.

Cheap:  At $6.22 total outlay plus rading the pantry, freezer, and garden, I have a recipe that compares favorably to the $17 La Trattoria version (in taste, not ambiance!).  You could further cut costs by waiting for a cheese sale at a non-TJ's store and opting for a non-filled pasta.  However, this created at least 5-6 servings, so I'm not feeling too badly about the price ($1.25 per serving if you figure five healthy servings).

Good:  Nothing is La Trattoria, but with some careful savings and yummy pasta dishes, I should be back "down island" before I know it!

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