Today’s post includes a recipe. It’s a really quick recipe, “quick” in the real-world sense, not quick in the warped cookery-book sense that means standing at the stove for 45 minutes. It’s also from scratch, so you can adapt it as necessary to fit your own dietary requirements. The ingredients are common pantry things, too.
On days like this, I need comfort food. It’s a long day at work, as working with 28 students who have emotional & behavioural issues can be. I’m tired of the temper tantrums (teenagers being like toddlers with hormones), and hearing the “F-bomb” tossed about. I’m especially tired of a trio of acting-out 8th-graders who collectively are the BD equivalent of acid+base+catalyst. Two of the teachers/staff are off sick, which means that they’re death-warmed-over sick, unlike several of the present teachers/staff members who are among the walking sick. I’m in the second category, and get to spend all morning crunching spreadsheet data, which given the way the students have been, was something of a blessing despite the fact that number-crunching is hardly my fave activity. The teacher has a substitute (of sorts), but of course there are no subs for paras, so we’re short-handed.
I have the intense desire to go crawl into a hot bath after work, but get home and discover that my son has beat me to it, having spent yesterday at home sick and then dragged through a school day. So I get a snack and find that somehow we’re missing a couple gallons of milk that I’d bought at the grocery two days ago. Cuss. I go out to the garage and find them still in the trunk/boot of my car, where we’d missed unloading them. Eeuw … gingerly set the two warm jugs of milk into the rubbish bin. Go back in the house and then my sock squishes into a puddle of cat-gack that one of them barfed up. Everybody has things that absolutely cannot stand; I can deal with blood and gore just fine, but wet socks absolutely gross me out. This pair of socks has one heel that’s getting threadbare, so I simply toss them into the rubbish as well. I clean up remains of cat-gack that my foot missed.
Retrieving the cleaning-up materials from the kitchen yields the discovery that for some unfathomable reason, one of the cats barfed onto a stovetop burner. I’ve no idea why any of them would be up on the counters, and querying the quartet of felines produces nothing but blank stares, Hear no evil, See no evil, Speak no evil, Eat no evil. As if! Someone was gnawing on the spider plant! (Chlorophytum comosum ‘Variegatum’). I go fetch my slippers for my cold feet, and then start dismantling the stove-top for cleaning.
Days like this call for comfort food — quick and easy comfort food, the sort you can eat with a bowl and spoon. I pull out a bag of spiral pasta and a couple tins from the pantry. I zapped some Romano green beans in the microwave for a side dish because we had some in the freezer.
PASTA PARMA ROSA
Some shreds of Parma ham would be fabulous in this sauce, but who has that just sitting around? But even without it’s still tasty. Quantities are rough guides; use what you have. Depending upon your ability to multi-task, this takes about 15-20 minutes to make. Chunky pasta shapes work better than slippery spaghetti.
- Start a pot of water to boil for the pasta.
- If you have some on hand, mince half a small onion and a couple cloves of garlic. If not, dig around and find a couple tablespoons of dried onion flakes and/or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder.
- Open a 14-ounce / 400 gram tin of chopped tomatoes, and set them to draining. Or, dice a couple-three fresh tomatoes.
- Open a tin of condensed milk, or measure out 2 cups half-and-half / half a liter of single cream (or dairy substitute).
- When the water is boiling, start pasta to cooking; don’t forget to set the timer!
- Cook the onions, garlic and tomatoes in 2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter, on medium heat. If using dried, add them at this stage so they will rehydrate in the tomato juice.
- Give the pasta a stir so it doesn’t cook into a big noodleblob.
- When the tomato mixture no longer looks very juicy, stir in a couple tablespoons of flour. Add a sprinkle of pepper (white pepper if on hand) and half teaspoon of salt or to taste. Pour in the milk. Turn heat down so the sauce doesn’t scorch.
- Stir pasta again. Turn strainer upside-down and whack it inside the sink if the bits of tomato stuck to it offend you. Rummage around and find a big serving bowl and spoon.
- Toss in a handful (about 1/4 cup if you’re a measuring person) of shredded Parmesan cheese into the sauce, and a handful of minced ham if there’s some around. I have also substituted a slice of bacon to great success — scissors make dicing the bacon much easier. Substitute half-cooked bacon for the oil at the beginning, and sauté the onions et cetera in the bacon fat.
- Drain pasta when done cooking. Dump the pasta into the serving bowl, pour sauce over it, and put the rest of the Parmesan on the table for adding atop individual servings.
- Nest the cookpots in the sink, tossing in the cooking spoons, along with a squirt of dish soap/ washing-up liquid, so the sauce doesn’t harden while you’re eating.
Go eat your food while it’s still hot!