Monday, March 8, 2010

Passing (on) the Pasta

So for Lent, our family gave up noodles and pastas of all kinds.

Like most kids, my kids love pasta more than most anything (except pizza, of course).  They have sacrificed.  I have felt their pain.  But may I be so bold as to declare that I, chief cook and bottle washer, have struggled the most in this sacrifice?  Oh yes.

I don't know about you, but a few busy or lazy days and pasta quickly becomes a staple around here.  It is cheap, fast, and a crowd pleaser.  I often use the whole grain pastas, so it is nutritious as well.  Pasta is, at least to us, a trusted, yet fun friend.

Friend, I miss you. 

Who among us doesn't fall back on spaghetti after busy day.  I mean, what could be better?  Boil some water, make up a simple marinara sauce, and I'm a hero -- in 7 -10 minutes. 

And what better way to soften the blow of roasted chicken or pork chops than to present it beside a nice scoop of from-scratch macaroni and cheese?

No Ramen noodles for a quick lunch on the weekends?

I even resorted to serving tuna casserole (yes, you know the one) on toast rather than the traditional egg noodles.  It had been a long, busy day and I was not feeling very gourmet.  Feeling less than proud of this move, I avoided eye contact as I slid this one onto the table.  I wasn't sure whether to feel complimented or insulted when my son claimed to like this mutant version better.

Nostalgia overtook me the other day, and I bought a spaghetti squash.  I've yet to make it.  It requires so much more of me than those happy little boxes with the friendly windows in them.  I have to get out a big knife and some muscle and turn on my oven (or microwave) to take this rock-like substance and remake it into stringy goodness.  It can be cooked in the crockpot, though.  Did you know that?  I may need to reacquaint myself with that recipe.

Don't get me wrong.  I enjoy cooking.  I might even say I am a good cook.  But even good cooks need a fall-back, a break, an easy lay-up.

I've got about four weeks to go.   

Forget the ham . . . it may an "Easter spaghetti" this year. 

P.S.Here's my aforementioned recipe for a healthier macaroni & cheese.

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

16 oz. macaroni or penne (I usually use whole wheat)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 medium onion , grated
1 tablespoon thyme 
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 (10 ounce) box frozen cooked butter nut squash, defrosted
1 cup milk (I've used everything from 2% to skim)
2 cups (8 ounces) sharp Cheddar, grated
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (I sometimes omit this, it's not quite as good without, but oh well)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked or hot paprika (if you have it)
Salt to taste

Heat a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Salt the water then add the pasta and cook to al dente.

While pasta cooks, heat a medium heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the extra-virgin olive oil and butter. When the butter melts into the oil, add the thyme and grated onion. Cook the grated onion in butter and oil 1 to 2 minutes, then add flour and cook together 1 to 2 more minutes. Whisk in stock, then combine with butternut squash until warmed through and smooth. Stir in milk, a little at a time, and bring sauce to a bubble. Stir in cheeses and season the completed sauce with cayenne, paprika, and salt to taste.

Drain cooked pasta well and combine with sauce.

You're welcome!


Mumsy said...

You are so right, pasta is a favorite around here, and mac and cheese looks so good..I enjoy this post..

Kathy Sprinkle said...

Wow! This is amazing... I never would have considered such a thing. Would Jessie eat at all if I eliminated her "noodles and cheese"? I just don't know.

Your writing about this hits home how much of a crutch it has become. That's it, tonight we are having rice! LOL not sure that is any better! OK, I'll work on it. Thinking about joining a Farm Co-op which will get me trying all sorts of veggies I've normally shied away from... thanks for the wake up call!

Chickens in the Basement said...

Try my old stand by! Chili has all the old staples and feels a little like spaghetti with beans instead of noodles! I find I'm falling back on pasta more and more!

Di in Indiana said...

Ahh ~ giving up pasta would be a sacrifice. We had pasta tonight! And, I might add, it was delicious! A new recipe....The Olive Garden's Chicken Scampi. Yumm!!!!

Diana Meade said...

We had spaghetti tonight! My other go to dish is Rice-A-Roni. I'm not ashamed! I just rip open whatever flavored box is closest to the edge of the pantry shelf and cut up some cooked meat and dump it in and simmer. Make a salad and call it dinner.

We have to have a those kinds of meals or we wind up eating out too much. BTW, I feel your pain!

bad penny said...

umm Pasta on the menue for tonight !
We eat quite a bit of it too - so I'd miss it if given up !
Jess makes a good spag bol - as does hubby - just need to teach Joe now.
I don't do Lent ! Well I'm not religious so no need to... I don't do New Year's resolutions either !

Pasta La Vista baby !

Pasta Manyana xx

bad penny said...

PSthat first picture ...loks like an evil little face !

Chicken Boys said...

I am not a healthy eater. I recently started getting heart burn on a regular basis. My mom, a former nurse, told me I needed to change my diet. I laughed. There are so many good foods out there...enchiladas covered in cheeses and chili suace, hamburgers with grease running down your chin, a big, fat juicy New York strip steak with a loaded baked potato...I"ll probably die in my mid sixties of a heart attack, but I'll die a happy man. Of course, I so hate brussel sprouts. I'm not Catholic, but if I were, I'd be giving up things I don't really like anyway. I know, that's not how it works, but hey...what can I say! :) Glad you posted today!

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