Apr 12, 2015

dump dinner: pasta puttanesca

After a bit of research into what dump dinners actually are, I've discovered that there are basically four kinds of "dumps:"

1. Slow cooker meals
2. Pressure cooker meals
3. Oven meals
4. Stove-top meals

In each instance, the ingredients ideally go straight into the cooking vessel and after heat and time, out comes a meal ready for the table.

The distinct omission in these kinds of recipes is the lack of flavor development that comes with something like sauteing, for instance. You just cannot get the same flavor from an onion that you merely boil instead of cook in a bit of fat. 

Since I am not cooking with oil for the time being (trying out the Forks Over Knives, Engine 2 Diet and McDougall plan) I figured this is the best time to try my hand at real, true Dump Dinners. That means no sauteeing and everything goes in at once.

Making a dump pasta dinner was my next challenge. Instead of cooking everything separately, I made this meal entirely in the oven. If any pasta dish is great as a dump meal, it would be Pasta Puttanesca. This dish is a tomato and olive based pasta meal.

I used white pasta here because I just wasn't sure how the meal would cook up, but since this went really well, I will make subsequent pasta dishes with whole grain pasta instead.

In my recipe I used extra firm tofu, but I am recommending baked tofu instead, although you could omit the tofu completely; the recipe is flexible.

Without further chatter from me, below is my take on the pasta dish in true dump style.

Pasta Puttanesca
Serves 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes for assembly and pre-heat, 5 minutes of sit time
Cook Time: 50 minutes

1 (15 to 18-ounce) can whole tomatoes, undrained
2 ½ cups vegetable broth
1 (4 to 5-ounce) jar kalamata olives, drained
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons tomato paste or ¼ cup tomato concentrate
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¾ teaspoon sea salt
Black pepper, to taste
10 ounces pasta (increase broth to 3 cups if using whole wheat pasta)
1 (10-ounce) package baked tofu, cut into ¼-inch dice
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil, optional
2 tablespoons minced parsley, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 400-degrees F. Transfer the tomatoes to a large oven-safe pot, breaking up the tomatoes as you add them. Add the broth, olives, capers, paste. oregano, salt and black pepper. Stir well to incorporate the tomato paste into the water. Add the pasta, tofu and garlic. Make sure all the pasta is submerged in the liquid. Cover the pot tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
2. Uncover the pot carefully, stir the pasta and continue to bake until the pasta is tender, about 20 more minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with parsley, if using.

Quick Tip: Preheat oven while you chop and assemble the dish.

© 2015 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.

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  1. Sounds like an efficient and useful way to make a relatively quick dinner. However, the term "dump dinner" turns me off. It sounds gross. How about calling it "potpourri?" You could pronounce it "pot-pour-ee," rather than the correct po-pour-ee. It's almost a pun. Original, literal meaning is "rotten pot," but most people know it as a mixture of aromatic herbs, flowers and spices used for scent. The secondary meaning: miscellaneous mixture, medley, certainly fits.

    I will be trying this soon with the whole wheat pasta. We always used canned diced tomatoes for our sauces and I think they will work better than breaking up whole tomatoes. I may even use a larger can, especially since the whole wheat can take more liquid. Not sure whether this really needs capers. I like them, but they are a bit pricey.

    1. I like your idea for the name! Rather cute! The only worrisome part of changing it from Dump Dinners is that folks wouldn't recognize it for what it is. Do a search for dump dinners on Amazon and you'll see that it is a popular/establish term, unfortunately. Because I agree with you that it sounds unappetizing!

      I used whole tomatoes in this because that was all I had, but then kept it because I liked the texture it gave it, vs. diced tomatoes that aren't peeled. If you use more tomatoes don't increase the water to 3 cups, as is recommended for whole wheat pasta. At least, that is what I noticed with the baking.

      Thank you for your thoughts, Nonna. I think the name change will happen, regardless of how well-known "dump dinners" is.

  2. I am a fan of your recipes. Have you heard about the whole chickpea brine craze that going around on facebook. Take a peek, you'll love it. All the recipes you can try using chickpea juice as an egg substitute is magical. I call it Hogwarts School of Vegan Wizardry !

    1. Thanks! I am aware of the magical brine :) Check out the Chile Rellenos I made using it...more of the savory side of Hogwarts.


    2. Glad you are on board . How did I miss your Chile Rellenos post ? My husband loves it, now I am going to make it and it's vegan so the both of us could eat it. Thanks.

    3. Hope he likes it! Work in progress, and all :)


Thanks for your comment! I'll check if it's spam and post if it is not. I appreciate your time and effort for commenting! ~ Zsu