Sunday, January 18, 2009

Vegetarian Pasta ...with Meatballs

It's 6 pm, on a freezing cold winter night. Even though I just shopped the other day, somehow there's nothing to make for dinner. Well, there's a chicken, but I don't feel like roasting a chicken. There's ground turkey, but my friend who made this amazing turkey meatball-pasta dish for us last week is out of town and can't give me the recipe. As far as meat goes, that's all there is. 

We are meaty people -- but I am trying to break us of our flesh dependence. This adds indecision and anxiety to my meal-planning, and leads to flailing about at 6 pm in search of dinner ideas. 

So I flip through Mark Bittman's Quick and Easy Recipes and come up with Pasta with Anchovies and Arugula. Perfect -- I can use up the wilted arugula in the fridge, and we have garlic, olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Plus, I love 'cupboard cooking' -- making dinner from staples in the cupboard. 

I thinly-slice four cloves of garlic and let them slowly cook, alongside 8 anchovies, in about 1/4 cup of olive oil. I wash and chop the arugula and put on a pot of water. My kids hate pasta so I make a bunch of turkey meatballs. (salt and pepper the meat, make the balls, fry them in, um.... bacon fat.) 

I drain the pasta, and forget to save the cup of pasta water that Mark Bittman calls for.  So I just toss the olive oil mixture with the arugula -- which immediately wilts perfectly -- and grate a blizzard of Parmesan cheese on top. Unbelievably, we don't have red pepper flakes, so we do without. I wish I had some pine nuts to toss in. 

It comes out very good -- simple, but satisfying. My daughter won't even try it. This is where the anxiety comes in: I don't push, because I don't think white flour pasta, even with the famous hard durum wheat, is all that good for you. 

(Yes, I am completely conflicted about the carnivorous thing -- don't want her to eat so much meat, but also don't want her eating lots of white flour. And am not a big fan of whole wheat pasta because, unless it's with a really rugged meat sauce, well: yuck. Argh.)  

But if there were pasta-eating kids at the table, who were non-arugula-eaters, it would be easy enough to push the loathsome green bits aside and eat "plain" pasta (deliciously, luxuriously flavored with dissolved anchovy bits). 

My daughter eats the turkey meatballs. At least it's a little lower on the food chain than beef or pork meatballs, right?

My son is away for the weekend, which is maybe why I risked pasta at all. It wasn't too long ago that serving him pasta for dinner made him cry.

Anyway, how can get I upset with my daughter about being even more of a ravenous meat-eater than her parents, when her food instincts consider what came next a perfect dessert? She would probably choose this over anything else in the world:  Raspberry Cassis Sorbet (from Blue Moon Sorbet. Ingredients: Raspberry Puree, Water, Cane Sugar, Cassis) and frozen blueberries. Something good's happening there.

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