Pasta, no Ragu Required!

 

 
So, being a college student on a severe budget, and living on my own these past two years, I’ve done a lot of experiments with cooking. Some of the early experiments pretty much sucked. (There was a gravy-making incident that involved crushed sardines* and black bean juice. I still gag at the thought.)

*Edit: OMGOSH I meant Saltines, not sardines; Saltines like the crackers!

But it was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot from it. I got brave and into it enough that sometimes I’d be like, “hmm, I feel like having this flavor. How could I create that flavor?” and trying it, or literally having dreams with weird recipes in them and trying those, too. My mom raised a few eyebrows at some of those particular dishes. Still. ‘Twas so much fun!

However, this is something I never blogged about on the old blog because I was pretty strict about discussing WRITING. STUFF. ONLY on there. But I don’t know, writing is this creative thing, and so is cooking, and I’ve always felt creativity generally spills into this big pool of creative inspiration. This new blog is more about being creative in general and how it all relates to writing in the end. So! Tonight! You get to hear about my cooking exploits.

Let me start it out by saying today was my first day back from a road trip to NY. The fridge only had a few non-perishables: some cheeses, milk, pasta in the cupboard, etc. And this month will be my last in Delaware (!) so I’m trying to buy less, use up the pantry items more. Pantry item #1?
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Pasta it is!

So I have this friend who yells at me when I tell her I cook pasta and just dump Ragu and cheeses on it. She’s been telling me I need to try the whole, olive-oil-and-spices/parmesian thing. And I HAVE tried. Somehow it never ends up flavorful enough. I keep adding stuff until, guiltily, I crack open the Ragu and give up for the night.

I figure my problem has been using dried spices instead of fresh ones. So tonight on my drive home (whole story there–it was a GORGEOUS day, the kind that makes me love Delaware, and I was off in this park doing homework until dark) I swung by the grocery store. I knew I wanted chicken in case the pasta turned out lousy. (Ahem.) So I picked up some thin chicken breast cutlets. Then I poked through the spices and ended up with this package of Italian Parsley.

I had this vague idea of doing Italian themed pasta and chicken, FYI. Those vague ideas usually shuffle around depending on how the food actually looks and tastes once I cook it. But tonight it worked out quite well!

Back home, I put on some boiling water, sorted through my available pastas, settled on penne, and got the chicken cutlets marinating for a few minutes in this Italian salad dressing made from the Good Seasons packets. It’s literally just water, olive oil, white vinegar, and their packet of spices. I love using it on chicken because it’s such an easy marinade.

By the time the water was boiling, the chicken was ready, so I poured that in a frying pan along with some canola oil and more of the salad dressing. Basically my method is to keep basting the chicken in dressing while it fries, and add just enough canola oil to keep the dressing from burning. Which is pretty gross when it happens.

 

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Blech. Anywho.

The penne finished first, so I drained it and added some butter. The plan was to chop my parsely and mix it in with a healthy dose of Parmesan…

But I was out of Parmesan.

Oops.

 

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         note the non-Parmesan here.                           again note the non-Parmesan.

That kind of killed things for a second. I had really been counting on having Parmesan. Cheddar is lovely, but no way does it go on top of raw pasta like that! So there I go digging through my cheese drawer, and it’s either mozarella or provolone.

 

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I kind of crossed my fingers, shut my eyes, and shredded the provolone into my pasta. Then I chopped the spices and added them. And sprinkled on a little salt to up my confidence. And…it was actually looking pretty good!

 

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Look! My beautiful creation! I shall call it Sans Ragu, and Sans Ragu it shall be called.

 

So I took a bite.

And it was NOM.

Guys, I didn’t even wait for the chicken to finish. I just sat there gorging on pasta until the chicken started looking crispy, and then I ate that too, because I cooked it, but really all I wanted was more pasta.

Success!

I do think it needed a tad more flavor. Or, wait, correction, that I would have PERSONALLY enjoyed it with more saltiness or cheesiness or something. But it was definitely better than I’d hoped, and a major success for being my third our fourth olive-oil-pasta attempt. And it was a great step toward my efforts in eating less cheese. (Meaning I only used two slices of provolone, instead of slathering it with multiple cheeses as I might have otherwise.)

It was a perfect meal. And then I went to check the fridge one more time. For what reason, I don’t know. I just kept thinking, if I looked again, maybe Parmesan would magically appear…

 

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YES!

 

Truly and always and PASTA,

-Mandy

 

 

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