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Don't let leftovers languish in your refrigerator! Let them shine as part of a new dish or two


Leftover steak, such as prime rib, can be ground and used to make burgers or even bolognese. 

Do leftovers languish in airtight plastic containers in the nether regions of your refrigerator?

I've never been a huge fan of leftovers, except for those few dishes that taste even better the next day. Mostly, I view leftovers are an easy lunch option — pop in microwave, reheat, eat. Sometimes, when lunch hasn't eliminated the leftovers, we take out the odds and ends of dinners past and announce that it's leftovers-for-dinner night. But alas, even then, I still seem to be plucking a stray container or two from the back of a shelf and sighing as I empty it into the trash.

I've become ever more cognizant of food waste since we began composting two years ago. I'm not a fan of food going into the trash bin, unless it's one of those items I can't compost. So, I'm trying to be savvier when it comes to leftovers and their lifespan, incorporating them into new dishes whenever possible. Leftover mashed potatoes find their way into a shepherd's pie. Roast chicken leftovers become the star ingredient of my homemade chicken and dumpling soup ...

When faced with a bounty of leftover prime rib after Christmas (my husband wanted to make sure we had enough for guests and leftovers for the next day), I was determined that it would not go to waste. So when my family was done with the leftover steak, I decided it was time to get creative and find a way to use up about 2 pounds of already cooked prime rib. (I also was looking for an excuse to use my KitchenAid stand mixer's meat grinder attachment.) Then it hit me: I'd make bolognese. 

I found several recipes online, found one I liked and modified it along the way, adding in two cans of tomato sauce and replacing the milk with a cup of coconut milk. The great thing about this recipe is it can be made with ground meat that you have on hand — beef, pork or lamb — and at any time of year. And, even more exciting to me, is that you can make several meals with it — which cuts down on food waste. We served it with fettuccini and the remaining bolognese is safely tucked in my freezer, where it will stay until I'm ready to make a lasagna. 



Leftovers aren't just for reheating or quick lunches. Leftovers can be used in other dishes, which cuts down on food waste and stretches food budgets further. 

(Adapted from cookeatrun.com)


2 pounds leftover prime rib, ground (or 2 pounds ground beef, lamb or pork)

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 ounces pancetta or bacon, chopped

1 large onion, chopped fine

2 carrots, peeled and chopped fine

3 celery stalks, chopped fine

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons thyme, chopped (1 tablespoon if using dry)

One 6-ounce can tomato paste

Two 15-ounce cans tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes

1 cup white wine

1 cup milk or coconut milk


Heat a Dutch oven on high and add the olive oil. Add the pancetta or bacon to the pan and cook for about 3 minutes or until it starts to crisp and renders some fat. Add the onions to the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Add the celery, carrots and garlic to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the tomato paste, tomato sauce, thyme and crushed red pepper if using. Stir well for 1 minute until the tomato paste becomes fragrant. Add the wine to the pan and simmer for 3 minutes until it starts to reduce. Add the milk to the pan and stir well.

Add the ground prime rib to the pan, season with salt and pepper and stir well. Place the lid almost all on the top of the pan (crack it a little or it will overflow) and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for one hour. Adjust the seasoning if needed.

Serve with your favorite pasta. Leftovers can be stored in the freezer for 6 months and used in a lasagna.

Jennifer Huberdeau can be reached at jhuberdeau@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6229. On Twitter: @BE_DigitalJen

Features Editor

Jennifer Huberdeau is The Eagle's features editor. Prior to The Eagle, she worked at The North Adams Transcript. She is a 2021 Rabkin Award Winner, 2020 New England First Amendment Institute Fellow and a 2010 BCBS Health Care Fellow.

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