Happy New Year, my friends! Since we are in a period where uncertain financial times gives us (and our wallets) stress, I’ve decided to beef up creating shorter recipes with value-brand ingredients. Looking at the glass as more full than empty, this also means less spending money and less time to make a meal. Penny Penne is a new recipe of mine where the name tells it like it is.
You can easily make this recipe to feed a hungry family of six for $5-$10 (the cost of one fast food meal).
Of course I give you additional ways to make it a bit fancy, but this recipe can be done using a maximum of just TWO ingredients, any pasta sauce you choose, and in just THREE steps. 2023 may be a challenging year, but we will get through it and delicious budget meals like this will help see the silver lining even quicker!
Pre-Pressure Cooking Penny Penne
And that’s all we have to do before pressure cooking! So far, that’s only 1-3 ingredients.
Post-Pressure Cooking Penny Penne
Optional Finishing Touches for Penny Penne
The Taste Test!
- 1 pound penne, penne rigate, or mezze penne (but any short-form pasta such as bowties, medium shells, gemelli, rotini or ziti will do)
- 4 cups chicken or garlic broth (e.g., Garlic Better than Bouillon) NOTE: you can also simply use water
- 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) salted butter, cut into 2 pats (optional, but suggested to keep the pasta slick)
- 2-4 cups jarred or pre-made pasta sauce of your choice (any variety of marinara, Alfredo, vodka or pesto will do), preferably at room temperature (or warmed in the microwave if cold from the fridge - see Jeff's Tips)
- 1/2 cup bacon bits, for topping (Costco sells a big bag at a great price and they'll last you a while)
- 2 cups shredded cheese of your choice (I use store-brand mozzarella which is stretchy or you can use a more melty one like a store-brand Cheddar, Mexican or taco blend. You can also use 1-2 cups grated Parmesan instead - the cheaper stuff in a container is perfectly fine!)
- Pick one: 3/4 cup of my Garlic Herb cheese, 5.2-ounce package Boursin, or 6.5-ounce tub Alouette (if you make this or find these on sale, you can freeze for future use)
- Any spices/seasonings you enjoy (see Jeff's Tips)
- Add the broth and penne to the Instant Pot but do not stir. Just smooth it out so it’s mostly submerged. Top with the 2 pats of the butter (if using).
- Secure the lid and move the valve to the sealing position. Hit Cancel followed by Manual or Pressure Cook on High Pressure for 6 minutes. Quick release when done and give the pot a good stir.
- Add the sauce (start with 2 cups) and stir. If you feel you want more sauce, add up to 2 cups more. If using the optional bacon bits, cheese, herb cheese, and/or additional spices and stir in now as well until melded. Feel free to top with additional bacon bits and cheese, if desired.
The reason why we want the sauce at room temperature or a bit warmer is because we're adding it to the pressure cooked pasta. If adding the sauce directly from the fridge, it's going to immediately cool down the pasta to the point where it will be tepid. In this case, simply hit the Sauté button and stir until it's heated. But you're better off having it be room temperature or even warmed up a bit in the microwave before adding it to the pot.
This recipe is very customizable in the spice department - be it cayenne, oregano, hot sauce, garlic powder, or crushed red pepper flakes. Feel free to add any you wish in Step 3: Start with 1 teaspoon of any or all and add more to taste!
Remember, use store-brand ingredients or check for coupons on items to get the biggest bang for your buck!