When I was little my parents were strictly healthy and I wasn't eating any "junk food." Until I met the next door neighbor. My friend next door was eating ALL the junk food!
My mom couldn't keep me away from my next door neighbor, Julie. Julie was a year older than me and when I would go to her house she would climb the cabinets, get on the countertops, and get out the Nesquick for chocolate milk, or the Hostess treats, like the Ho-Ho's and Twinkies. Most importantly, her parents made THE BEST BUTTERED NOODLES and served them in the old school Tupperware bowls.
Our families became fast friends and before too long our moms started part-time jobs. The moms decided to get opposite shifts and take turns watching us. During this time, my exposure to endless buttered noodles and treats was on high. Julie's house had all the good stuff.
Julie's mom, Sally, would watch me in the morning while my mom was at work. Soon after, Julie started Kindergarten and oh my...how I missed my friend terribly when she was away at school. I can remember sitting at her big picture window waiting to see her walking home from school. I always knew Julie was about to come home when Sally opened the can of Spaghettios for lunch. She would put two bowls of Spaghettios on the table right by the picture window and in no time at all Julie would come walking down the street.
That was about 42 years ago now, but I remember it like it was yesterday. Steaming bowls of Spaghettios and my friend walking down the street with a big smile on her face, running to the door to give me a hug and tell me all about Kindergarten. We loved each other fiercely.
The years passed and we both moved away, but kept in touch. At Julie's bridal shower her mom gifted her the old beat up buttered noodle pan that had been lovingly used over the years to cook us all our buttered noodles and Spaghettios. There wasn't a dry eye in the place.
Not too many years later, Mrs. Sally had a severe stroke, became wheelchair bound, and was unable to speak. Everyone was so upset and I remember my mom crying because Mrs. Sally was so active and hated sitting still. My mom couldn't bear the thought of it. Mrs. Sally lived several years this way and was able to meet her grandchildren before passing, but she deserved so much more.
When I saw this recipe for Grown-Up Tomato-Parmesan Pasta I immediately thought of my old friend Julie and her mom, Mrs. Sally.
I also thought of my daughter, who also loves pasta, but has never had Spaghettios (my mom and I succeeded on that one). Well, I made her this homemade version and it was so easy. A little bit of olive oil and minced garlic and seasonings, then tomato paste and water to a boil, toss the pasta in, cook until al dente, throw in some Parmesan and you have Homemade Spaghettios.
My daughter loved it, just like I expected. I thought the tomato flavor was a bit sharp, but I only like tomatoes (I don't love them), so this makes sense. Tieghan calls for 3 tablespoons of tomato paste and that might be a bit too much for me. I might try less tomato paste next time. Overall, it is a fast and family-friendly dish to make and I think kids would really love it.
This week my daughter moved into her very own place. I have been 'in my feels lately' and really missing my mom. She's been gone for almost 5 years now. As I was packing things up I got mom's old pasta pan and colander, grabbed a box of pasta from the pantry, and a stick of butter from the fridge and put it all in a box. It was time for me to part with mom's pasta pan and pass it on to my daughter. I loaded it in the car and it was the first box to cross the threshold into Olivia's new place.
I set the pan, colander, pasta and butter on Olivia's new stove and stepped back feeling so much reverence. In that moment they were all there with me: mom, Mrs. Sally, and my friend Julie. I snapped a picture and sent the text to my old friend Julie with the caption "first things in Olivia's new place." A handful of words with a lifetime of meaning.
Later that night Olivia send me a text and it read, "Made the pasta and I'm having the time of my life."
A little while later Julie answered my text, "Our moms would love this."
In these moments life sure is beautiful.
Grown-Up Tomato-Parmesan Pasta
Adapted from Super Simple
by Tieghan Gerard @ Half Baked Harvest
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, smashed
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 cup anelli, or other short, tubular pasta*
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil leaves, for garnish
In a medium saucepan, combine the olive oil and garlic over medium-low heat (*see note below). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the rosemary and a pinch of red pepper flakes and cook until toasted and fragrant, about 1 minute more.
Remove the saucepan from the heat. Stir in the tomato paste, then add 2-1/2 cups of water. Return the pan to high heat and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and season generously with salt. Cook, stirring often, until the pasta is al dente, about 12 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat again and stir in the Parmesan. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed.
Divide the pasta between two bowls and top with fresh basil. Serve immediately. Store any leftovers refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
*Note: It's important to keep the olive oil at a low temperature throughout step 1. If the oil is too hot when you add the rosemary and tomato paste, the rosemary will burn and the tomato paste will splatter.
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