I’m going to tell you something that as Angelenos you probably already know: Trader Joe’s is a great place to go if you’re throwing a last-minute dinner party, either for a date you want to impress or just some friends you want over to keep you company on a rainy night. They’ve got everything from the cheese plate to oven-baked entrees to ready-to-serve desserts to flowers and candles to a great wine selection.
What do I make when I haven’t had time to plan for anything and I’m getting out of work late? Why my instant dinner specialty: penne pasta with vodka marinara sauce and proscuitto.
Sounds fancy but all I did was stop by TJ’s after work, pick up a jar of Trader Giotto’s vodka marinara, a pack of proscuitto and a bag of penne pasta (all for about $10).
Ten minutes before I had to have dinner on the table, I lightly pan-fried the chopped-up proscuitto with some olive oil then poured in the jar of sauce, sprinkled some red chili pepper flakes and served this lovely sauce with the cooked pasta. If you want to go gourmet extra, you can throw in some herbs and mozzarella.
My friend Andrea brought over a lovely red wine to go with the spicy dinner and Stephanie showed up with a hunking box of freshly made tiramisu. And we enjoyed this instant Italian dinner along with our rented cheeseball romantic comedy, Just Like Heaven.
Steph had arrived late and after dinner asked me for my recipe, at which point I just whipped out the TJ jar of sauce. I’m telling you, it gets the job done for a satisfying albeit simple dinner and makes it seem like you put in a lot of effort.