Food is eternally forgiving. Sometimes I think that is why I love to cook. Baking is entirely unforgiving, so I try to do that only when feeling invincible. Especially macarons. Never attempt macarons when feeling even the slightest bit vulnerable. What follows is my most forgiving dish, the one I can count on time and time again, to just be perfect, and yet never the same twice: a ridiculously kid-friendly pasta with goat cheese and bacon.
There are some things in life not as forgiving as food, namely people. I have a truly negative habit of overanalyzing almost every social interaction, after the fact. Always after. Perhaps we had a fantastic conversation, but when you walked away, you gave me an odd look (when probably the sun was in your eyes)? Chances are I’ll be dissecting that look for days to come. Once someone told me that this was social anxiety. I thought, “Couldn’t be. I’m an extrovert! I’m happiest when surrounded by interesting people.” Which is absolutely true. Until I get home, and my mind dissects every single nuance of every single interaction. It’s exhausting.
When I teach the MBTI to my college students, I explain that their preconceived notions about introversion and extroversion are awry. What matters is from where you draw your energy, or recharge your batteries. If you need to take a break from people and seek “alone time”, you are an introvert. If you need to get out and socialize after too much time on your own (me), you’re extroverted. But extroversion doesn’t stop me from being anxious about having said the wrong thing in a social situation. We can never, ever turn back the clock and unsay (most often unintended) things that sting, offend, or cut to the quick.
People and their relationships are fragile, easily bruised and unlikely to be forgiven and forgotten.
A peachdoesn’t hold a grudge if you’ve handled it too roughly.
The whole idea of food being forgiving may seem preposterous to people who don’t cook or have experienced true kitchen disasters. I’m not saying it’s impossible to burn something (pizza, cupcakes, steak) beyond being palatable, but you have quite a long grace period before the absolute end of the road. Add salt if it’s underseasoned. You can even put a raw potato in a soup to draw out the salt if you had a particularly heavy hand. Turn down the burners if the boiling is too vigorous. You can even save the “trickiest” of dishes like mayonnaise, lemon curd, seized chocolate. Very few things are truly ruined in the kitchen, unlike people.
My 7-year-old son calls farfalle pasta “butterfly pasta” despite it being labeled “bowtie.” A few months ago, I realized farfalle actually was the Italian word for butterfly. So my son isn’t imaginative, just Italian, despite being born to American parents. You can use any type of pasta shape. Rigatoni would work quite well. I used
The incredible flexibility of this recipe is due to the fact that with bacon and goat cheese, you can put anything else in it and it’ll still be sublime. Sure, you can jazz it up and use pancetta, but I urge you to source local ingredients for simple dishes like these. The great thing about the South is that I have over four different bacons I can choose from that are made right here. The squash and zucchini came from our weekly delivery from Blue Moon Farms, our fantastic CSA. My favorite dishes are those that are a gorgeous riot of colors and flavors, salty and earthy, creamy and tangy. This one does not disappoint.
Butterfly Pasta with Bacon and Goat Cheese
I would love to come up with a lyrical name for this kid-friendly pasta dish, but this is what my son calls it, and so it shall be. Do not omit the goat cheese, or if you do, don’t tell anyone you got the recipe from me.
- 1 lb short pasta any shape
- 6 slices of thick-cut bacon chopped
- 1 onion peeled and chopped
- 1 yellow or orange bell pepper chopped
- 1 pint whole cherry or grape tomatoes
- 2 yellow summer squashed sliced in half moons
- 2 zucchini sliced in half moons
- 1 head of broccoli florets reserve stems for another use or discard/compost
- 1/2 bag of frozen peas
- freshly ground salt and pepper
- 4 ounces goat cheese
- 4 leaves of basil chiffonade (roll the leaves up and slice them thinly in ribbons)
Set a pot of salted water to boil.
While it’s boiling, in your largest skillet, heat bacon on medium high heat, stirring as the fat renders.
Add pasta to boiling water and cook for 9-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, when the bacon looks browned and crisp, toss in the onion.
Cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent and slightly browned.
Add in all of the vegetables and stir until cooked.
Season with salt and pepper.
Check on your pasta.
It should be almost al dente, and still firm between the teeth.
Take about a half of cup of cooking water from the pasta and add it to the skillet.
Drain the pasta over the sink and pour the pasta into the skillet.
Stir it up and season to taste, letting the pasta cook a bit over low heat.
Divvy it up among the dishes, adding about an ounce of goat cheese crumbled over each serving.
Top with basil.