Years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child, I prayed that it would be a boy. Did I have any particular reason? Not really. I just liked boys. I felt like I'd be a good mom to a boy. I had my boy and I was thrilled.
And in a bold stroke that proves either that I have a direct line to God's ear or that God has a very bizarre sense of humor, I was given four more sons in subsequent pregnancies. I am a mom to five boys. It always tickled me a little when people would notice there were five boys in tow whenever I went somewhere. The exchange almost inevitably went, "Five boys! Are they all yours?" What follows next can go one of two ways: the nice way and the "I didn't listen to my Mama" way. The nice way is when people smile and cluck and say, "Wow! You are blessed!"
The "I didn't listen to my Mama" way involves replies always delivered full volume in front of my kids and go something like, "Well, better you than me." Or the worst of them all, "Just kept trying for a girl and didn't get one, eh?"
I got what I asked for and I'm grateful. I have five-boy joy. Two of my guys were at camp last week, but there were still three at home and the teenager had three friends over. Translation: I was feeding even more people than usual with two kids at camp. The catch wasn't the amount of people I was cooking for, because I'm accustomed to feeding a horde, but rather that I didn't know I was feeding them until about a half an hour before dinner time.
I'll admit that I felt a moment of cold panic at the idea of feeding four starved teenagers and various other sundry hungry mouths. I fell back on that great friend of parents-of-teens the world over. I made pasta. I didn't just make any pasta, though, I made Bacon Pizza Pasta. The beauty of this recipe is that you can scale it up or down as much as need dictates. I made this with three pounds of pasta and none of it made it through to the next day. Leftovers, when available, are delicious.
You have to realize that even if you're providing hungry boys with three pounds of pasta, that may not fill them up. In fact, you can be fairly certain it won't. In that case, you'd best have a batch of chips and whatever your favorite salsa is on hand to bridge the gap.
Bacon Pizza Pasta
This one-pot pasta tastes just like pizza minus the work. It comes together in moments and feeds a crowd. Rely on this to feed starving teenagers!
½ lb. sliced bacon
1 onion, peeled and very finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and pressed or finely minced
1 can (6 ozs.) tomato paste
1 c. pizza sauce
4 c. beef broth
1 c. water
2 t. Italian seasonings
¼ t. dried oregano
1 t. salt
1 t. onion powder (preferably granulated onion)
¾ t. garlic powder (preferably granulated garlic)
⅛ to ½ t. crushed red pepper flakes (or more, to taste depending on heat tolerance and preference)
1 lb. dry small shell, rotini or elbow pasta
2 c. grated mozzarella cheese
15 slices of pepperoni, cut into quarters
Stack the bacon strips and cut down through the stack at ¼-inch intervals. When done, you should have a pile of thin bacon strips. Put these into a large stockpot over medium-low heat, stirring frequently.
Add the onion and minced or pressed garlic when the bacon is about halfway cooked. Continue frying the bacon, onions and garlic until the bacon is crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the crispy bacon with the onions and garlic to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Pour the remaining bacon grease out of the pan (and hopefully into a jar to use in tasty things later).
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the garlic, tomato paste, pizza sauce, beef broth, water, Italian seasonings, oregano, salt and onion and garlic powders. Pour this into the pan from which you drained the bacon grease.
Stir well, raise the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. When it is boiling, gently stir in the dry pasta, add a lid to the pan and drop the heat to low. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes to prevent the pasta from sticking.
When the pasta is tender, turn off the heat, add all of the grated cheese, the crispy bacon and the chopped pepperoni and stir gently until the cheese is melted in completely and everything is evenly distributed. Serve hot with additional grated cheese if desired.
This creamy, silky avocado salsa is our current top-of-the-heap. It's the time of year where even we in the northern climes can lay our hands on green tomatoes, so I recommend diving headlong into eating this as often as possible until the supply gives out. It is a copycat of a well-loved salsa served by a famous Mexican restaurant chain in Texas.
Ninfa's Green Sauce
3 medium green or yellow tomatoes, coarsely chopped (or 2 c. green tomato salsa verde or commercially available salsa verde with about ½ cup of water.)
4 tomatillos, peeled of the paper husk, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1 to 2 jalapenos, stemmed and chopped (if using the salsa verde, also remove the jalapeno seeds)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 ripe avocados, halved, pitted and scooped from the shells with a spoon
4 stems worth of cilantro
1 t. salt
1 ½ c. sour cream (or Greek yogurt, which is my preference.)
Add the green or yellow tomatoes (or the salsa verde and water) to a heavy-bottomed saucepan along with the tomatillos, jalapenos, and garlic. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the tomatillos are tender. Remove the pan from the burner and let the mixture cool for about 15 minutes.
Transfer the contents of the pan into a food processor or blender with a metal blade. Add the avocados, cilantro and salt and blend until completely smooth.
Use a rubber or silicone spatula to scrape the sauce from the food processor or blender into a mixing bowl and whisk in the sour cream or Greek yogurt until evenly coloured. Serve immediately or store in a jar or other container with a tightly fitting lid for up to a 4 days.
For a heartier helping of Foodie With Family, go to www.foodiewithfamily.com. Write to Rebecca at email@example.com.