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.
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