Pizza Pasta Panic

Bow tie pasta dish casserole. Photo by Cecilia Kennedy

Pizza Pasta Panic is a chaotic, yet tasty blend of bow-tie pasta elegance and pepperoni pizza. It also perfectly describes my state of mind when I was making this casserole: Confused. Very confused, but determined because I signed up to bring a pasta dish to a swim team pre-meet potluck, which is very, very intimidating. It’s intimidating because I don’t want to embarrass Alex with the food I make. I don’t want him to say, “Mom, my friends said, ‘Dude, your mom makes weird stuff.’” In fact, if I serve consistently weird or tasteless dishes, will potluck organizers be able to program Sign Up Genius so that it “malfunctions” and sends out alarms when I attempt to sign up? I actually wonder about these things. Here’s the fantastic news though: “Miles” (whose name I’ve changed here), on Alex’s swim team, tasted Pizza Pasta Panic and said, “It’s good.” Alex also said it was “good” and “spicy.”

To sum up so far, then: There are exactly two reviews of this dish, and, drawing creatively from those reviews, this is how I’ll advertise my casserole on the Internet: For a good and spicy time at a swim meet potluck, dive into some Pizza Pasta Panic.

However, winning over two swimmers at a potluck does not easily “happen” overnight. It takes about a week’s worth of careful consideration and planning.

“Someone already signed up for macaroni and cheese!” I told Nate early on in the week. “Macaroni and cheese! That’s like. . . the best thing in the world! The absolute best! And it’s rude to copycat. That’s the unspoken rule about potlucks. You can’t copycat on purpose.”

“I don’t know—just make something easy—like lasagna.”

“Lasagna isn’t easy. At least, it’s not easy for me.”

“I . . . I don’t know how to help you,” Nate said.

“It’s okay, honey. It’s okay. I’ll handle this for the both of us. Just leave it to me.”

At one point, I thought I’d just empty a box of boiled penne into a 9 X 13 pan, cover it in spaghetti sauce from a jar and heat it all up with cheese, but where’s the love in that? Where is the love? No. I’ve contributed nothing to the team so far. Nothing. I’ve not volunteered to time or count laps or pass out snacks. I needed to mess up my kitchen and show some love. So, I started to look at some recipes online and the pizza/pasta mash-up is not new. Lots of people cook pasta in 9 X 13 pans with pepperoni and either some version of Italian sausage or just ground beef. After looking over a few recipes, I told myself, “I got this. I’m going in.”

To get really creative, I decided I’d use a pasta shape that people just tend to overlook at potlucks: the bow tie. My son is on the men’s high school swim and dive team after all. What better way is there to remind these swimmers of the gentlemen they are than to have them eat bow tie-shaped pasta? Beneath the tough exterior of these Speedo-clad competitors beat the hearts of young men who convene in the hot tub after practice and discuss politics. So, let them eat bow ties—and wear some pants. (Alex, please remember pants when walking back to the car after practice.)

I decided then that bow tie pasta would be my “base.” However, I did cheat a little bit by buying the “traditional” marinara style Barilla pasta sauce because making and canning my own sauce, an hour before the potluck, just wasn’t going to happen. Now, here is where the love came in: I heated up a pound of ground beef with chopped garlic, diced red and green bell peppers, some onion, a little bit of sea salt, and just a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. Then, I just started layering everything—like a mad woman because I was running out of time: sauce, pasta, beef, pepperoni, cheese; sauce, pasta, beef, pepperoni—lots and lots of cheese. But I lost count of my layers and I can’t remember if I doubled a layer of pasta and cheese and forgot the sauce, or if I just dumped a bunch of sauce over some cheese at some point. In any case, I threw the whole thing in the oven at 450 for 20 minutes, pulled it out, and shouted, “Drive, Nate! Drive! It must get there hot!” There was no time to even taste it. It just had to get there.

Meanwhile, I started on the meal Nate and I were going to eat for dinner because parents weren’t really “encouraged” to eat at the potluck. It was for the swimmers/divers and coaches, really, but I suspect some parents may have snuck a bite or two. Finally, when Alex came home, I pounced on him with questions:

“How was it? Did you have fun? What did you eat? Tell me everything.”

“I had fun, but I can’t remember everything, but I liked the thing you made—and Miles said it was good, too.”

“That’s great!”

“Oh—and the macaroni and cheese was awesome.”

“Yes, I’m sure it was.”

“There was also this shrimp soup, too. It was really good.”

“Since when did you start eating shrimp? I could be making delicious shrimp dishes and you’d eat them? I could have been buying shrimp this entire time?”

“Yeah—I think I like shrimp now.”

“Was it a curry based shrimp soup? Did it have coconut in it?”

“I don’t know. Dad . . . please help me.”

Nate, who was trying not to laugh, reminded me that it was late and that Alex had a meet the next day.

“But did anyone get sick?” I finally asked.

“No. Everyone’s fine,” Alex said.

And that’s the important thing. No one that I know of so far got sick from the Pizza Pasta Panic. Oh—and “Miles” from the high school swim team says it’s “good.” Blessings and hugs to “Miles.”

Your Turn: What’s your go-to dish for a potluck?









27 thoughts on “Pizza Pasta Panic

  1. PPP looked pretty good to me! When I became an unwilling bachelor many years ago, I remember I had two go to dishes for just such occasions. One was an Apricot Chicken dish that involved putting chicken thighs into a Pyrex dish, slathering them with a mixture of Kraft Russian salad dressing and apricot jam and then baking it in a hot oven. It was delicious if I do say so myself! My other go to was a desert dish that involved layering Kahlua and milk soaked Dad’s Chocolate Chip cookies, and intermittently layering them between layers of fresh whipped cream and then applying the finishing touches by shaving sweet baking chocolate over the top. Into the fridge for a few hours to let everything set nicely, and voila! Only for the adults though. Rave reviews! That was many years ago now, and I’ve since graduated from bachelor status and have managed to move past those two go to dishes to a point where I am a pretty good cook/chef! As usual, this was a fun post from you filled with your particular brand of “off the wall” humour. Thanks for sharing …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Both of those recipes sound amazing! And, I never thought about the acronym for my dish before–that’s too funny. I hadn’t noticed until you put it in your post: PPP. Yes, a PSA to those naming kids and/or potluck dishes: check the acronym first before settling on that name:)

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I just kind of winged it. I boiled the pasta according to the package directions and set it aside. I then browned the ground beef and drained it. Next, I added about a half a cup of chopped onion and 1 large green bell pepper (chopped) and 1 large red bell pepper (chopped)–a teaspoon I think of chopped garlic and red pepper flakes and sea salt to taste. I just kind of let that simmer a little bit–not too long because the beef was already cooked through by that time. Then, I layered the Barilla traditional tomato sauce into the 9 X 13 pan first and then some pasta and then the beef and then a layer of pepperoni–topped with cheese. I repeated this step until I ran out of ingredients and ended with shredded mozzarella cheese on top. 450 in the oven for 20 minutes.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Buying food that others have baked and then taking credit for it works really well–except people might come to your house to watch you make the delicious dishes you’ve been bringing. In that case, I don’t know what to do. Cheers! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I do something similar to yours, which looks yummy, only using penne pasta and no meat. Never knew when dinner would be delayed and, like you, I didn’t want to poison everyone. My dessert go-to is pistachio bread, which is really cake and delicious.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ahah very funny! You are very smart with food, I think. As an Italian, I have problem to imagine a pizza-pasta, but I’m sure that the guys loved it. My potluck? Pasta with tomato sauce (homemade), frittata (fried eggs with vegetables), some cheese. And thank you for teaching me a new English word

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, well–it’s not real Italian food. For that I would visit your blog instead:) Actually, I should have just visited your blog for ideas! I think I will for the end of year potluck. I need something really good:) Your homemade pasta and tomato sauce and frittata sound wonderful!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. OMG! You may be the first person to have actually tried any of my recipes before–that I know of. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to create a new special blogger’s award for this week’s post–and you are the recipient. There will be three easy questions to answer and you don’t have to answer them at all, if you don’t want to–or you can go totally off base, which I love. I have no authority at all to create new blogging awards, but will I get into any “real” trouble? Let’s find out!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s a very delicious looking tongue-twister you’ve made there. Veggie version for me please, but you can’t go wrong with any kind of pasta and sauce in our house. My partner would live on pizza and pasta given the choice, maybe because he’s part Italian, so I shall show him this. I do pasta bakes and bolognese type dishes but with shapes rather than just spaghetti. And cheese. Lots of cheese! We don’t really do Potlucks in the UK, and as I’m anti-social with no kids, I am rarely called upon for such stuff 😉

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s