Attack of the leftovers


During my days in college, I shared an apartment with a couple of great guys… Mark and Mike.

The other day, while dealing with some leftovers in the fridge, I was reminded of an incident from thirty years ago. An incident that, if used as evidence against me, quite likely could end up with my permanent removal from the kitchen.

Our story begins with Mark going away for a few days. I don’t recall the reason, or the exact length of his trip. But I do know he was gone for at least three dinners and returned just after we had begun eating the fourth since his departure.

On the first evening, Mike and I decided to make some pasta. The two of us preferred things with a bit more heat and seasoning than Mark did. It wasn’t that Mark disliked either, instead that he tended to be a bit more traditional… lighter with red pepper… more fresh garlic instead of powders… and so on.

Mike and I went a bit nutty that night. We didn’t make meatballs or add sausage. Instead… fresh mushrooms and onions and peppers… plenty of garlic and parsley and oregano… and LOTS of red pepper. We had a good pot of sauce and plenty of pasta.

We finished the pasta. Leftover sauce went into the fridge.

The next night we came home, and feeling pretty good about dinner from the night before, we decided to repeat the meal. And this is where things begin to spin slightly off the rails…

The best description I can offer would be this. We took the leftover sauce and placed it into a pan. We then opened some new sauce and added it to the pot, effectively bringing the amount of sauce to the same amount we had begun with the previous evening. And then, we added exactly the same amounts of seasonings and other ingredients.

So… on night one… 100% fresh sauce. On night two… 50% already seasoned sauce and 50% fresh sauce, with the same level of seasonings added.

The second evening ended in similar fashion, with leftover sauce placed in a container and moved to the fridge.

Night three? You guessed it… a repeat of the seasoned sauce mixed with fresh sauce and the addition of another full batch of fixings. At this point, we could truly call it the leftover seasoned seasoned sauce being mixed with fresh sauce and a full complement of additions.

I believe Mark returned home on night number four. But his timing was a bit off. See…

Mike and I had come home once again, and we have both routinely proven ourselves to be fairly basic in our approaches to things. By that, I mean that I could eat good Chinese food every night and never get tired of it. Same for good Mexican food. Same for good any food. It doesn’t mean we don’t mix things up and try different meals. Just means that yesterday’s meal and tomorrow’s menu don’t necessarily sway us from decisions made today. And as such, another evening of pasta and sauce was not an issue for either of us.

Which of course means… you guessed it… the now seasoned seasoned seasoned leftover sauce being used as the starter batch with the addition of an equal amount of fresh sauce and then another full round of peppers and mushrooms and onions and garlic and red pepper and… yeah…

By night four, it was quite a hearty stew of a sauce. By measurements, you basically had two-and-a-half recipes of sauce measurements mixed with four batches of other ingredients. Plus, it had a chance to mellow and age from day to day.

Mike and I thought it was brilliant. We loved it. Mark? Well…

When he arrived home, we were sitting in the living room and eating. We had bought some fresh Italian bread. We thought he might be home that night and had made extra pasta. There was plenty for him to enjoy.

He returned from the kitchen and commented about how we had gone with a thicker sauce while he was away. And then… his first bite pretty much knocked him out of his seat.

I would like to point out that he ate the entire serving. (He also described it as toxic. We didn’t save the leftovers from this night.)

Funny thing about cooking. Generally speaking, when a recipe is involved, I try to follow it the first time I make it. From there, if it is enjoyed, some playing around might become involved. That approach has never changed for me. And quite often, the slight changes have led to some amazing meals. Meals that are still cooked and enjoyed today.

But when it comes to leftovers, and tinkering with recipes, I still fondly recall that run of pasta and sauce. (And I realize I’m fortunate that people trust my cooking.)


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at