A pot of canned pasta sauce stirring on the stove.

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Ok, you are at home ready to take a nice hot bath – your kids are away at their grandparents, and your partner is out with his friends.. and you are looking forward to a relaxing day.  No plans for anything special for dinner. Perhaps left overs, a good salad, but whatever you have, its only for you so no need to please anyone but you.

Then suddenly you hear – HI MOM.  The kids decided to come home, then HI Hon, the significant other is there. OR friends, in-laws, etc.. drop in unannounced. Its 4:30pm and you have not planned on dinner, but they soo expect dinner.  So what do you do.

Relax. You are well prepared for this type of situation as long as you have pasta and canned tomatoes, a little cream (milk) and your favorite oil based dressing.. dinner is 30 minutes away.

This happened to me this week.  I was expecting my son to be at his grandparents for the week.. I thought I would have 4 days to myself.  One day into it, boom – there is my son at my front door.  I did not go shopping, so I had to make due.

He loves vodka sauce. I thought I had a jar of it in the house and said I would make it.. But alas, I did not, we used it the last time I was strapped.. So, what is one to do? Improvise.  Below is a quick sauce I made (2o minutes), that tasted close to vodka sauce, but no vodka.  Even if you have never had it before, it is a good sauce.



1 TBS olive oil or butter
1/4 cup diced onions
1 clove garlic, diced (optional)
2 TBS Italian dressing
1 tsp dried oregano
1 Cube beef bouillon (or veg or chicken – beef is preferred by me)
14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes (italian, oregano, garlic, onion flavors)
16 oz tomato sauce (plain sauce)
2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup red wine (if you have one opened – no need if not)
1/2 – 1 cup water (it will evaporate the longer you rapidly simmer)

Added last:

1/4 cup heavy cream (or milk, or sour cream, cream cheese (whatever you have on hand, etc…) You can omit if you don’t have it, its still a good quick sauce without the cream.

Optional – 2 TBS pinches of parmesan cheese (helps to thicken sauce – you can always add-on after you dress your pasta)

1 LB of pasta your choice on type, cook according to instructions

Lets get going:

  1. Start the water for the pasta – add a pinch or two of salt (always a good idea for cooking pasta)
  2. In a separate sauce pan (or saute pan the wider the pan the faster it cooks as more ingredients are in contact with the heat), add the oil or butter to the pan over med-high heat.  then add the onions and garlic (if using).
  3. When the onions start to become translucent, add your favorite Italian salad dressing of choice, the oregano and the bouillon of choice.  Break up the bouillon.  Stir and continue to stir about 1 – 2 minutes until simmering.. Reduce heat if necessary.
  4. Add in the canned tomatoes, and water ( it is best to use the water to rinse the cans to get all the tomato goodness and add that to the sauce ), add the pepper (if using – can even use red pepper flakes if you want a little spice), and wine (if using).
  5. Let simmer about 1o – 15 minutes. During this time check on the pasta. Drain the pasta if done prior to the sauce being done.  Use a little of the sauce to stir with the pasta to keep it from sticking or use a drizzle of olive oil.
  6. Continue to stir the sauce to prevent from sticking. After about 10 – 15 minutes, remove from heat, add in the cream and cheese (if using). Whisk until incorporated.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed (pepper, cream, etc.. reminder  – Cream will help dilute saltiness).

Serve.  Some like their pasta tossed in the sauce before serving, others like the sauce on top.  It is all how you like it.

Side Dish Ideas:

Garlic Bread

sautéed/blanched Spinach, broccoli, carrots, combo, etc..

Fresh salad

Fresh raw veggies, baby carrots and sliced peppers and Ranch dressing for dipping (great for kids)

Fresh fruit

This will make a great delicious fast dinner on the surprise or even just for a week night dinner when most of us have limited time.

Enjoy and good luck with the continued surprise attacks.  I am putting together another post that will also suit this category.

Happy New Year and happy cooking –



About culinaryease

I am a single mother who loves cooking and providing tips, techniques, to get everyone out of the takeout lane and into the kitchen.

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