Is there a certain food or meal that reminds you of someone? I’m pretty sure it’s because all our family gatherings involve massive amounts of food (I’m not even talking parties, we have crazy amounts of food even if one person is visiting) that I tend to associate certain foods with the people I love. For example, whenever McDonald’s brings back the McRib (I know, it’s gross, the smell alone makes me gag) I think of my Nanny. I remember when she was in the hospital after her heart attack (go figure) that she begged us to bring her a McRib because she wanted to try it. Kraft macaroni and cheese reminds me of my brother Jeff who refused to eat my mom’s homemade version (which is amazing) and insisted on smothering his noodles with ketchup (grosses me out to this day). Cup o’Noodles takes me back to my college days when I would visit my Aunt Theresa and she would not only guilt me into eating the biggest Cup o’Noodle she could find but also included a sandwich followed by a waffle sundae and capped off with a pizza, can we say Freshman 40? (I’m actually glad she fed me so much, it was way better than anything in the dining hall).
There are many more food memories I could list, but I’ll end with the most recent one, Creamy Orecchiette with Spinach and Prosciutto, reminds me of my dad. I think this food memory makes me smile the most because it’s not a meal that I would have ever thought my dad would like, but really it became one of his most favorites. The day before he went into the hospital I called the house, as per usual, and Dad answered, as per not so usual, the first thing I asked (as it was Valentine’s Day) was what he had for dinner. His response was “We had the best dinner” which was the orecchiette. Not to get all sentimental or anything, but I’m glad that the last real meal he ate was something that not only made with love but something that he truly enjoyed.
My mom found the pasta recipe in the newspaper months ago and I remember the first time she told me she had made it that Dad loved it. I tried for months to persuade Eric into trying it, but he just didn’t think it sounded good, I even had my Dad try to talk him into it, no luck there either. While we were in NY last month, my mom made it for dinner. Let me tell you, I’m not sure what happened but Eric must have eaten 1/2 of what she made (she even doubled the recipe), he is now hooked on the deliciousness that is Creamy Orecchiette with Spinach and Prosciutto.
Creamy Orecchiette with Spinach and Prosciutto
3/4 pound dried orecchiette
6 ounces baby spinach leaves (1 bag)
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese (I’m not sure if it’s 1 container, but that’s what I used)
2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
Zest of 1/4 of a lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
4 ounces prosciutto (about 3 or 4 slices), coarsely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Two minutes before the pasta is done gently stir the spinach into the pasta and cook a few seconds until wilted. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Now drain the water from the pasta and spinach. While the pasta is cooking, chop the prosciutto and garlic.
While the pasta is draining in a colander, return the empty pot to the stove over low heat. Add a little olive oil, when the oil is hot add the garlic and prosciutto. Cook for a few minutes, be sure to not burn the garlic. Add the mascarpone and Parmesan; zest the lemon right into the mixture. Cook until the mascarpone has melted, about 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup of reserved pasta water and stir, its the mixture is too thick still add a bit of water, be careful to not add too much. Return pasta and spinach to the pot, toss to coat. Taste; add freshly ground pepper to your liking. Serve immediately.
Verdict: We both loved it! My only disappointment was that my pasta was all broken when I opened the bag…next time I’ll get Wegmans brand, they don’t sell broken pasta 😉 Other than that it was soooo good. The best is that it’s basically a one pot meal, plus super easy and fast for a weeknight. Next time I’m going to add sausage. You can add all kinds of different ingredients, it’s really a blank recipe canvas with endless possibilities. Truly one of the best dinners I’ve ever made.
I know I’m not the only one there out that has food memories, especially if your family is as food oriented as mine. If you’ve never thought about it, try it, you’ll be surprised what food memories will being a smile to your face.