A few weeks ago, I made a very large pot of red sauce, the kind of red sauce that you can ladle over spaghetti, or spoon lovingly over baked ziti, or lace in between layers of noodles for lasagna. I did many of the things you can do with red sauce, and I still had some left over. It came to the point where one more dish of pasta just wasn’t going to cut it, not even with my pasta-loving offspring, and it just seemed too little and too late to freeze the remainder. I had pizza dough, though, and it was a cold, damp night. Something tiny inside me whispered calzone, and I had a vision of a brick oven, and golden mound of dough stuffed with melted cheese and savory red sauce, and a leafy green salad, a fire, a glass of wine, and I got to work.
Search Results for: spaghetti
Among the treasures I found in my garage recently were two bank-issued datebooks from 1938 and 1939. They are embossed with Tony’s grandfather’s name and offer some introductory boilerplate pages of information considered essential for businessmen, from a 300-word description of the Statue of Liberty to “Fifteen Don’ts in the Use of the Flag” and “The Fourteen Errors of Life.” “Good Rules for Business Men” include “Make Friends, but not favorites” and “Stick to chosen pursuits, but not to chosen methods.”
These pages fascinate me, but I’m even more interested in the calendar pages of the book, which Tony’s grandmother took over and made her own daily journal. From January 1st until December 25th, she noted the day’s activities and the family’s meals (sometimes indicating different dishes for her daughter, eleven year-old Nancy, and her youngest child, Geoff).
Saturday, January 1st, 1938
Played in the yard in the morning
Ate lunch at Andersens on Wilshire Blvd.
In the afternoon went to Grauman’s Chinese to see “Love and Kisses” + “Checkers.”
Supper at 6:15 P.M. Bed at 7:40 P.M.
Tomato Juice (Nancy)
Orange sherbert (Geoff)
Choc. Sundae (Nancy)
Crackers and cheese
Monday, January 10, 1938
Nancy had her 17th French lesson. Geoffrey went to club.
Bed at 7:05 + 8:00 P.M.
Raisin bread toast
I skip ahead to April:
Nancy had a French lesson at 3:10 P.M. Geoffrey went to club.
Nancy getting her rock specimens ready to take to school for the “Hobby” department on May Day.
Cottage cheese – avocado salad
Jello + cookie
And then skip again to a Saturday in May:
Went to the children’s show in the morning at the Beverly theater.
In the afternoon played outside.
Nancy baked a lemon cake – very good.
Tapioca pudding (Nancy)
I learn about their haircuts and their play dates and their appointments at the dentist; I learn that Nancy had a pet guinea pig and Geoff was sent to bed early when he misbehaved.
But of course it’s learning about their meals that interests me. I’m intrigued by the ways in which they are not so very different from our own (cereal, juice and milk at breakfast) and the ways they really are (also bacon and toast with that cereal, juice and milk!) It’s page after page of hot lunches and meat + two (or more) veg dinners, with milk at every meal. It is very proper English eating, because Nancy’s mother was English, but clearly California eating, too, as they incorporate the local produce, especially avocados, and lots of grapefruit and oranges.
Its uncomplicated lists of everyday meals show how one family was being nurtured and nourished, and makes me glad of the record Lisa and I are keeping here. It makes me think about what I want my children to remember of their meals, and realize my aspirations are fairly simple: I want them to be satisfied and happy, I want them to enjoy cooking and eating our meals. I could emulate some of these 1938 meals today if I wanted to – you can still buy Ralston cereal, which has only changed to note on the package that it’s microwavable — but I don’t feel the need. It’s enough for me simply to read this completely unremarkable record of one family’s daily food life, notable only because it exists.
Half citrus pasta, half fettucine alfredo, this recipe is a delicious mash up. Inspired by the bright, cool spring we’re having–sunny days cut through with crisp wind–a pound of fresh lemon pepper pasta, a carton of heavy cream, two older recipes (here and here), and the bag and bags of lemons we continue to harvest.
It’s everything the paradox of a spring evening wants: fresh, vibrant flavor, and a warm, rich cream to take the edge off the chill. For a few minutes, we gathered around the counter, slurping noodles in silence, soothed and energized all at once. Sometimes, there’s balance.
Lemon Pepper Pasta with Parmesan Lemon Cream Sauce
- 1 lb fresh lemon pepper pasta, or fresh fettucine
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons butter
- zest of one eureka (or meyer) lemon
- 3/4 cup grated parmesan or grana padano
- While waiting for pasta water to boil, pour cream into a large, heavy bottomed skillet.
- Zest the lemon into the cream, add butter and heat slowly until butter melts and cream thickens slightly. Turn off heat and let rest.
- When pasta is done, drain and add it to the lemon cream along with the parmesan.
- Over medium-low heat, toss the pasta in the cream for about a minute to mix thoroughly and let pasta absorb the sauce. Serve immediately with additional parmesan, if desired.
One of my resolutions this year is to do only One Thing At A Time. This is very, very hard for me. Somedays, when I have 12 things on my to-do list, including writing, teaching, errands, chores–it’s physically painful not to do that one extra thing. The commitment has meant, among other things, that I am trying hard not to Get Dinner Ready While Helping With Homework. Or not to Section The Cauliflower While Doing Laundry. Or not to Peel Carrots In Ten Minutes Before School Pickup. I’m trying hard to avoid Eating Dinner In The Car On My Way To Work. It means other things, too, like not asking my kids to Get Ready For Soccer And Eat Your Snack. Or Clean Your Room and Get Ready for Bed. You can extrapolate.
You can call it my Oxford comma moment.
However, I am still trying to cook with fresh food.
Leaving the fast food to Finn
Doing One Thing At A Time means I have to plan more than ever. It means I have to start early. It means I have been thinking hard about what I can do to minimize my cooking time between the hours of 3 and 6.
In my quest, my new appliance has been life changing. Technically, my slow cooker is not a traditional slow cooker. It also roasts, sautees, browns, and simmers. I am still learning the best ways to use it: how the high/low settings work; how long to parboil pastas; best cooking times for different sizes of baked potatoes; how much extra liquid to add to simmer-all-day soups. But it has been on my countertop nearly every other day since I got I it, and it has helped me slow down and simplify in countless ways. To date, I’ve made delicious Swedish Meatballs and Beef Stew. But also: macaroni and cheese, red sauce, baked ziti (with leftover red sauce), split pea soup, baked potatoes. Not all the recipes are perfect. Yet. (Except the pea soup. And the hint to rub the potatoes lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt before baking.) But it has made my life exponentially less stressful. And that, as some of you know, makes everyone less stressed-out. Funny how that works. Funnier that it has taken me so long to learn the lesson.
So along comes last Sunday, when our local football team played my childhood football team for a spot in the Superbowl. I have fond memories of dark winter afternoons, a house full of the smells of my mother’s red sauce, or spaghetti and meatballs, or lasagna, endless football games, tv trays, warm garlic bread. And so even though I didn’t need to use it, I pulled out my slow cooker, sauteed the meat, added the tomatoes, herbs, and wine, and set it to Simmer for the next, oh, 4 or 5 hours.
Right before game time I cooked the pasta. Ella made kidtinis. We watched the game. We ate. We put in all the stops.
Ella’s 49er Kidtini. It involved club soda, Meyer lemons, grenadine, and a whole lot of cherries. Also red sugar.
Slow Cooker Red Sauce
- 1/2 lb ground beef
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cans Italian tomatoes
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 1/4-1/2 cup red wine
- With slow cooker on Sautee/brown, sautee meats with a pinch of salt until cooked through.
- Add onion, garlic, and bay leaf, and cook, stirring constantly, until onion begins to soften.
- Add tomatoes, thyme, wine.
- Simmer for 4-5 hours.
This easily makes enough to dress 2 lbs of pasta. Save 1/2 for a batch of quick baked ziti during the week.
One thing Caroline & I are discovering as we are doing the final pass on the edits for our book, is just how important mothers are when it comes to the food we eat as children. It seems there is a mother, somewhere, for better and for worse, at heart of all the ways we learn to eat. No two stories in our book are the same, but one of the clear common threads is just how much influence a mother can have. On the one hand, this is some cause for chagrin: it’s our fault? Again? Really? On the other hand, it’s forcing us to clearly recognize just how much power is in the hands of the person who feeds us first and how important food can be–in ways that go far, far beyond the table.
This lesson has come home for me this week. My parents are visiting from the east coast, and my mother, who is full of energy in every way, generously stepped into my kitchen to cook for my family on the night I had to teach. It was a huge relief not to have plan, cook, and leave this meal behind for them, which is what I do every other week. Even better, she had spied a new recipe from my favorite food magazine, La Cucina Italiana and decided to try it. I sort of marveled at her willingness to experiment in the middle of the week, but she took it all in stride, as she does many things.
The result was a meal the kids raved about. I was lucky enough to be able to eat the leftovers for lunch the next day, and I have to agree. It’s delicious. So, with gratitude for my mom, who taught me to try new things, who is an inspiration to me, and a unflagging companion for my kids, and, basically, a joy to be around, here is the recipe just as she made it, straight from the magazine.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 pound ground pork shoulder
- 3 leafy sage sprigs
- 1 rosemary sprig
- 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 1/3 cup finely chopped carrot
- 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
- 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped fennel fronds and tender stems
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- Fine sea salt
- 1 pound bucatini or spaghetti
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
In a large skillet, heat oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add pork, sage and rosemary; cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up meat, 4 minutes. Add onion, carrot and celery; reduce heat to medium-high and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour into pan and stir to combine, then add broth, fennel, wine and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to cook ragù at a gentle simmer until sauce is flavorful, about 20 minutes.