A transformative dish that takes me to a much happier place. I think it will do the same for you.
These days dinner means more than mere sustenance. While we all ‘shelter in place’, it’s a mighty punctuation point to our day. Dinner is a marker that we made it through another day of isolation, homeschooling, Zoom meetings, and a vague feeling that this cannot possibly go on much longer. You can imagine the warm feeling I got when I came across this incredibly easy dish of peas and bacon, pasta and parmesan, one of my comfort food markers. It instantly transports me back to Rome where I was young and in school and where my dinner cost 1800 Lira which was about $3.00. And every time it appeared on the menu of our local trattoria, it was all I ever wanted. No wonder I felt comfortable.
“Comfort food” is a whole lot newer than I thought.
“Comfort food”. The Oxford English Dictionary only added a definition for it in 1997. Even more surprisingly, it traced the term only back to 1977 when an article in the Washington Post about Southern cooking appeared with the following statement: “Along with grits, one of the comfort foods of the South is black-eyed peas.” Really? 1977? Even the author of the piece wrote in 2013 “I don’t really believe I created the term…but since then it has been one of my favorite food descriptors”.
You’ll never believe where the first mention of Comfort Food came from.
Believe or not, I discovered that the phrase “comfort food” only first appeared in 1966 in the Palm Beach Post of all places. And it was first used in a story about obesity: “Adults, when under severe emotional stress, turn to what could be called ‘comfort food’—food associated with the security of childhood, like mother’s poached egg or famous chicken soup,” it read, beneath the headline “Sad Child May Overeat.”
Comfort Food’s connection lies in the power of its associations.
I am relieved to tell you that happier views of “Comfort Food” emerged as I delved a little deeper into the subject. A Professor named Shira Gabriel of SUNY Buffalo cracked the code. Her research defined “comfort food” as anything that a person uses to make them feel better. And I am happy to tell it’s not about overeating. Instead, comfort food’s power lies in the associations it calls to mind. Family connections, gentler, happier times, reminders of when things were better, places happier—in short, a lot of what’s missing right now. So here’s today’s recipe for a reminder of how much better things have been and will be again soon.
Pasta e Piselli (Pasta and Peas
Peas and Bacon, Pasta and Parmesan combined in a heavenly cream sauce for a dish as comforting as can be.
- 3 cups peas, fresh or frozen
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 4 slices bacon, diced or 4 oz package of Diced Pancetta
- 1 small yellow onion, minced
- 1 lb. pasta, such as fettuccine ( I used Fresh Pasta and cut the cooking time accordingly)
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
- 1⁄4 tsp. sugar
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Step 1 Combine peas, butter, bacon, onion, and 3⁄4 cup water in a 12″ skillet over medium-high.
- Step 2 Cook until water has evaporated and peas are cooked for about 15 minutes.
- Step 3 Meanwhile, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil
- Step 4 add pasta, and cook until al dente, 10 minutes.
- Step 5 Drain, reserving 1 cup of water.
- Step 6 Add pasta, water, parmesan, sugar, heavy cream, salt, and pepper to skillet with peas and toss to coat.
- Step 7 Transfer to a serving platter and serve immediately.