After a summer of unseasonably hot temperatures, the thought of cooler weather and cozy foods may be especially appealing to your guests. Think hearty soups and stews, pasta bakes, potato dishes and creative takes on macaroni and cheese. As you plan menus for the months ahead, consider how you can stretch your ingredients on hand, whether that includes produce that can support a pasta dish as well as a sandwich, or cuts of meat that you wouldn’t normally feature at the center of the plate but which can elevate a soup or savory pie.
A ragù can be a menu workhorse – it’s satisfying, it provides variety by complementing a wide range of starches, and it can be reinvented with different proteins, spices and vegetables to suit your ingredient supply and clientele. Purists favoring a meat-based ragù can serve a classic Bolognese sauce with tagliatelle, or a melt-in-your-mouth lamb ragù with fettucine or wide ribbons of pappardelle. Proteins ranging from turkey to sausage can work too. Guests looking for plant-forward options need not miss out either – a mushroom- or lentil-based ragù can be a hearty (and convincing) substitute for the meatier varieties.
Whether you’re serving more animal- or plant-based proteins these days, consumers are embracing spices to kick up the interest of these foods. According to Food Engineering Magazine, nearly half of consumers say seasonings weigh heavily on their decision to purchase a certain protein – and spicy flavors including harissa, chimichurri and Cajun, along with smoky flavors like hickory, mesquite, oak and alder, are winning fans. Fortunately, the rubs and marinades you use to enhance the experience of a dish also offer the timely benefit of helping you stretch your pantry without a need for more real estate.