This is not really a recipe but more like a principle for creating a fast, easy meal with odds and ends. I think of it whenever I have leftover sausage. It was passed on to me by the now ex-wife of my husband's best friend in the late 1980s. Her name was Joy, so we always just called it the Joy meal. I tried to think of a more descriptive name, but this was difficult due to the variability of most of the main ingredients, so the Joy meal it remains. You can use any sausage, any vegetables, and any melting cheese you have in your fridge. The essentials are just a bit of leftover sausage, a big stack of diverse vegetables, fried in a bit of fat, and the flour, milk, tomato paste, and cheese, which are added to your vegetable medley to form a sauce. It is always good and very comforting. —Starmade
Test Kitchen Notes
This is basically a kitchen sink mac and cheese, and it was a great way to use up some kielbasa and crudite I had left over from a party. A comforting winter meal (that I'd gladly eat in the summer, too)! I added the tomato paste while the veggies were sauteing, rather than trying to incorporate it at the end with the cheese. —nomnomMKE
pasta, any shape, or a combination
3 or 4 cups
any vegetables, ideally in assorted colors; this version uses 1 leek, half a red onion, broccoli, 2 small carrots, half a bell pepper, and 2 mushrooms
roughly 6-ounce Italian sausage, hot or sweet, or any leftover sausage (I used a fragment of leftover smoked sausage)
milk, plus more as needed
grated or crumbled cheese, any kind (I used Parmesan)
Boil pasta to desired texture in water of appropriate saltiness. As it cooks, chop vegetables into bite-sized, similar-sized pieces.
Add oil to pan over medium heat. If sausage is not already cooked, fry it till it holds its shape, then slice it. Then throw the slices back in the pan. Add vegetables to the pan, putting in those that can be cooked longer first (onions, carrots) and things you prefer tender crisp (broccoli, any greens or peas) later.
When the vegetables are cooked to the point that the more tender vegetables are not quite done, sprinkle flour over the whole mess, then pour milk in (I never actually measure the milk, just pour straight from the carton till it looks right) and stir some more. It should thicken up a bit. Add the tomato paste and cheese and let it all meld together. It will thicken a lot. Some of this depends on the cheese; if it thickens too much, splash more milk in. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over cooked and drained pasta.