Some Comfort Food for Those Dastardly, No-Good, Very Bad Days (or Months)

Categories: Leftovers, Recipes

Photo by Christina Uticone
Cheese, peas and pasta: a one-dish oasis.
Have you ever had one of those stretches in life where you just can't seem to catch a break, or your breath? When everything is going wrong all at once? We're coming off a month like that at our house -- in fact, we're feeling a little bit like a country song these days. My husband and I can't seem to be in the same city at the same time, literally passing one another in the night as we fly off on separate trips; I had the Death Flu, during which I had to write a 2,000-word article while high on DayQuil; our beautiful old puppy dog (who we knew wasn't long for this world) has finally bid us adieu. Oh, and we are in the middle of moving, which is always a relaxing and rewarding experience.

Needless to say, food -- and eating in general -- have not been a priority. It's not the healthiest, but we've been alternating between day drinking on empty bellies and gorging ourselves on our favorite comfort foods. In the spirit of giving (it makes everyone feel better!), I want to share a few dishes with you that I turn to for comfort.

Cheese and Peas

"Cheese and Peas" is another favorite comfort food recipe, one we found in The Smitten Kitchen cookbook, with which I remain obsessed. Of course, that's our name for it; cookbook author Deb Perelman calls the dish her grown-up take on Alfredo: shells instead of fettuccini, a simple cream-and-Parmesan sauce (flavored with lemon zest, which is just perfection) and green peas. Simple, satisfying and as delicious a pasta dish as I've ever had.

I couldn't wait to share this recipe -- a dish we eat at least once a week -- but my husband has been enthusiastically packing up our entire apartment in anticipation of the upcoming move, so I had to turn to the Internet to find it. Thanks, Adventures With the Always Hungry! The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook says this recipe yields four small, or two generous, portions -- I've been known to eat one and a half generous portions in one sitting.


• 1/2 pound pasta shells (small or medium, semolina or wheat, whatever you like)
• 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
• 1 cup heavy cream (you can use low-fat milk, but the lower the fat the harder it is to get the sauce to come together)
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest (or more; I use at least a tablespoon)
• 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
• Salt & pepper
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, and when it is almost done add the peas to cook, about 30 seconds. Reserve about a half-cup of the pasta water, and then drain pasta and peas; leave to drain in the sink.

Wipe out the pasta pot and then add the heavy cream or milk; bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, until it reduces by half. Add the butter, and stir it until it has melted. Next, season the reduction with black pepper, a generous pinch of salt and the lemon zest. Add three-quarters of the grated Parmesan, stirring constantly until the sauce is smooth, and then add the drained pasta and peas. Cook the pasta in the sauce for as long as two minutes, until the sauce has slightly thickened; use the reserved pasta water, if needed, one spoonful at a time, to loosen the sauce if it's too thick. Garnish with the rest of the cheese, and a good sprinkle of flat-leaf parsley. Die, go directly to heaven.

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