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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Moving Pains

 It’s an immutable fact that moving sucks.  
Ask anyone.  Really…ANYONE, and they will confirm this.  

There's the stress over logistics:  how exactly will you transport your belongings from A to B?
Wrangle friends into helping you?  Hmm, how is it that everyone is going to be out of town that very same weekend?  Borrow your cousin's van?  Or, wow, maybe you're ready to be a true adult and actually pay for movers.    

Then there's the seemingly endless process of packing.  Putting everything you own into a box makes it seem as if your belongings have multiplied like rabbits.  Everywhere you turn there is a closet or enclosure full of things calling out to be packed and offering clear evidence to contradict your earlier, optimistic predictions that "we don't really have that much stuff".  

And don't get me started on the frantic, last minute items that remain, lurking, waiting to be discovered as the movers are carrying your possessions out....the crap under the kitchen sink or tucked into corners in the garage, or, strangely enough, an entire cabinet in the kitchen that was somehow missed.  

So, you get yourself transferred somehow, and teetering on the brink of exhaustion, you now have to buck up and start UNpacking.  There are the boxes you packed in the beginning of the process, and their meticulous, carefully wrapped contents.  Then, there are the frantic boxes.  Unlabeled and filled with odd assortments of items thrown into a box, any box.   The entire process is painfully messy and unsettling.  And yet, throughout this adventure, one has to eat, no?  

Sadly, the cookbooks have long been packed up, and there they stay until the bookcase situation can be sorted out.  The kitchen is like a foreign country.  You haven't quite mastered the local dialect and it feels like you need a map to navigate unfamiliar drawers and cabinets.  There's takeout for several days...and that's combined with sandwiches and cold prepared foods, but if you're like me, you can only take so much of that before you start craving a hot, home-cooked meal.  

This is where having an easy pasta recipe up your sleeve proves to be very handy for that first, hot-cooked-meal-in-your-new-home.  In the case of a move four years ago, that pasta recipe was cacio epepe, essentially a version of the favorite children's classic, spaghetti + butter + cheese = comfort.  But I like to think I am a continuously evolving human, and my move a few weeks ago had me craving a different Italian comfort classic:  pasta amatriciana.  Tomatoes, bacon (or pancetta) and hot pepper flakes.  What’s not to love?

Bacon and tomatoes genuinely like each other (case in point:  BLT) and in this case, a little zing provided by the pepper flakes makes things interesting.  As soon as I had unpacked the last pan, I got the sauce going and cooked up some spaghetti.  The smell of sizzling onions, garlic and bacon proved to be just the morale booster I needed.  Tumblers of wine were poured.   Packing paper was cleared off the table.  A hot meal was served.  Home at last.

Bucatini Amatriciana
(straight from Mario Batali)
serves 2
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 oz thick-sliced bacon or a chunk of pancetta, roughly chopped
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
1 clove of garlic, sliced
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 cup canned chopped tomatoes
1/2 lb bucatini or spaghetti
Pecorino-Romano, freshly grated
Salt for the pasta water

1.  Bring a large pot of water to boil and add a couple teaspoons of salt.

2.  In a large saute pan over low heat combine the olive oil, bacon or pancetta, onion, garlic and pepper flakes.  Cook until the onion is softened and most of the bacon fat has rendered, about 12 minutes.
3.  Add the tomatoes and turn up the heat to bring the sauce up to a boil.  Lower the heat to simmer, and let bubble for 6 or 7 minutes.
4.  While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta until very firm...about a minute less than the package directions and drain.
5.  Add the pasta to the simmering sauce and toss to coat for about a minute.  
6.  Serve in warmed pasta bowls with a shower of grated Pecorino.

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