With apologies to the people of Bologna, and everyone who takes their meat sauces seriously: here’s a variation for those of us who don’t eat meat. It’s quicker (great for a weeknight) but every bit as hearty and warming as a traditional bolognese. More
The question usually goes something like this:
“What are we having for dinner?”
And the answer goes something like this:
a) “I don’t know yet.”
c) “(insert actual name of real dish I’m serving here)”
In other words: a) the lie, b) the evasion, c) the truth.
Option “C” ? It rarely goes well. Which would be one thing if the kids didn’t like to eat. But according to the laws of kid-dom, where they reside, they are obligated to pout and protest and suggest alternative meals…and then almost without exception sit down and eat without complaining. It drives me crazy.
However, I have found a stealth weapon and it is bacon. The other night when they asked the question, I was ready. “Pasta,” I said, then I paused, and added under my breath, “with bacon.” I waited for the backlash.
Technically, it was pancetta, but who’s keeping track? There was an egg involved, too, that I sort of left out of the description. I did the evasion thing until the last moment when I poached it right there in front of them. I’m not such an expert at the poaching, but the kids love a runny yolk, and they found the process weird and satisfying.
As I was cooking, the two of them admitted that I could add bacon to anything and they would be happy. Really? I asked. “So if I say we’re having pasta?”
“Pasta with bacon?”
“Fish wrapped in bacon?”
“Tofu and bacon?”
“So I can add bacon to anything and you won’t complain?”
“Nope. I mean yup. Bacon!”
Pasta with Bacon and Eggs AKA Pasta with Pancetta, Parmesan, and Poached Egg
- 3/4 pound small shell pasta
- 4 slices pancetta, cut into small dice, or more, if my daughter is coming to your house
- about 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan romano
- Several large handfuls of pea greens or spinach
- 4 eggs
- 4 tablespoons white vinegar
- olive oil
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Bring a smaller pot to boil for the eggs.
- While water is coming to a boil, sautee the pea greens &/or spinach in a large pan until tender. Separate into four bowls.
- In the same pan, sautee the pancetta in a few tablespoons of olive oil until crisp. Turn off heat and set aside.
- Refuse to stuff each individual shell with a piece of bacon/pancetta, per your daughter’s request.
- When small pot is boiling, turn it down to a low simmer. Crack each egg carefully into a ramekin or small bowl so it’s ready to poach.
- When the large pot boils, cook the pasta. When about 4 minutes are left to go on the pasta, make sure the water for the eggs is simmering, then pour in vinegar, turn off heat, give the water a swirl to make a whirlpool,and one by one, carefully slip the eggs into the poaching liquid.
- Let the eggs sit and cook in the water for 3-4 minutes while you drain the pasta, then add the pasta to the pan with the pancetta.
- Add the cheese to the pasta and pancetta and toss to coat.
- Portion the pasta into 4 bowls, layering it over the greens.
- When the eggs are done, remove one by one with a slotted spoon, drain for a minute, and place them carefully on top of the pasta.
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.
Some people eat long noodles, other families eat blackeyed peas, but we have a pasta-making tradition on New Years Day. Actually, the tradition has been that I make the pasta and everyone else eats it. Mostly, I don’t mind. Mostly, I love making pasta the way other people love meditating, or running, or taking a nap. There are few other tasks in the kitchen that I find more therapeutic, and even fewer that have a better reward. But this year, I just didn’t want to make all that pasta only to have it disappear a few hours later, nor did I want to make the extra batches all by myself. Plus, there’s no kitchen gadget my kids love more than the pasta roller. So I decided: It was about time the kids and Kory learned how to make pasta.
First, you clear the table and dump 2 1/4 cups “OO” type flour into a small hill at each work space.
Next: you make a pit in the center of your flour mountain, volcano style. Crack 3 eggs into your crater.
(Even Finn could do this–mostly.)
With a fork, puncture the yolks, then scrambled the eggs. Slowly incorporate the flour into the eggs.
When the dough begins to comes together, you drop the fork and begin to knead, incorporating flour bit by bit until the dough is no longer sticky. Eventually, it will be smooth and elastic and will spring back when you poke it.
It’s messy teaching kids how to knead, so I couldn’t take pictures. But you’ll trust me when I say we ended up with 4 beautiful batches of pasta.
3 batches were packed away, unrolled and uncut in ziplock bags and stored in the freezer for another day.
The last batch, we rolled into fettucine. Actually, Ella and Finn rolled it,with some help, then cut it on their own. Teamwork. We don’t have it every day, nor did we even have it all day on New Years Day, but we had it in this moment. This is one of my goals for this year: remembering that harmony, in small ways, matters.
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.