If you want a foolproof Italian meal, Bay Cities Deli & Bakery is the place to go. It’s only open until 7PM Tuesday through Sunday, so I had to race from work to get there before closing time. As always, the place was packed, and I had to circle the block before getting a spot in the lot. Inside, you can find just about everything from fully cooked meals, fresh pasta and frozen foods to sauces, meats, wine, and even funky kitchen gear. It’s the perfect place to get your groceries if you were hosting a quasi-gourmet dinner party and wanted to pair squid ink pasta with aged olive oil and freshly shaved cheese, for example. Not that I’ve ever done that before, but it’s just the kind of place that lends itself to an effortlessly delicious menu that LOOKS much fancier than it actually is. Case in point.

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My ingredient list for dinner was simple. Whole canned tomatoes. I’ve gotten a lot of recommendations for this San Marzano brand, and I thought the taste was great. I especially liked that the tomatoes looked very natural and really popped, with all the seeds spilling out, as I was crushing them for the sauce. I sometimes have a bias toward canned foods and thinking they aren’t “real” enough, but these passed my test.

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Fresh pasta. I’ve never made my own pasta before but I’ll gladly buy something that doesn’t sit on a shelf for months, especially if it costs just over three bucks for a nice big container.

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Garlic & Herb goat cheese. I did get the cheese from the Farmer’s Market though. Bay Cities has a great selection but I went a wee bit overboard on the amount of goat cheese I bought this weekend, so I had to reign myself in tonight. Side note, I also bought Lemon & Lavender goat cheese from the same vendor and IT. IS. AMAZING.

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Chewy, blistered bread. The crust on this loaf reminds me of New Jersey bagels, where the outside gets all golden and bubbly. I definitely tore off a hunk to eat in the car before sticking my bags in the trunk. Having the bags next to me would likely lead to not enough bread for dinner. I’ll admit I could eat the entire loaf!

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To put everything together, all I did was smash the tomatoes, add some spices, and let them simmer on the stovetop for a bit. The pasta cooked for 4 minutes in salted water, and the bread popped into the oven for 10, with one big piece lightly buttered and sprinkled with garlic salt for the boy. I personally like my carbs Plain Jane style. Divvied up and topped with chicken sausage for him, goat cheese for her.

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The taste? Well, neither of us were 100% sold on the fresh pasta. I’ve had homemade pasta before and something about this batch just wasn’t clicking. I think I’d like to recreate this entire meal with some of their imported, boxed pasta…a big, fat noodle to catch the sauce and goat cheese. See? I’m always thinking about the important stuff…like pasta size.

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