Remember how I was trying to be a responsible, frugal adult and cook as many of my meals as possible? Yeah, that went away. Not only is cooking often really inconvenient, but in the hands of a novice, it can even be dangerous. Long story short, after a little incident with the broiler my apartment complex had to give us a new oven, and for the past month and a half I’ve avoided it after making a solemn vow to live on takeout for the rest of my days.
However, sometimes takeout is also really inconvenient. One of those times happened last week, when I was already in pajamas in my apartment and I got hungry. I didn’t feel like drive-through food, delivery is expensive, and I do have SOME pride, so my only option was to brave the stovetop using some of the groceries my mom bought me the last time I was home for a weekend: pasta and canned sauce.
(What? Are you suggesting that I could have put my bra and real pants back on to go out and get food? Are you insane?)
I was apprehensive at first. After all, I don’t have the best track record with hot cooking appliances—I once started a fire boiling water for macaroni and cheese while babysitting, for Pete’s sake. (No, nothing was destroyed. Yes, firemen came. Yes, it was embarrassing. Can we move on now?)
My pyrophobia notwithstanding, once I got back into cooking it was actually a little… fun. Canned sauce seemed boring, so I threw in some extra green vegetables and some cuttings from my roommate’s windowsill herb garden (again, boys, he’s single), and it turned out surprisingly well. Yes, cooking can be scary and inconvenient, but the good news is that food doesn’t have to be gourmet to be filling. Here’s a “recipe” that will keep you from feeling the kind of desperation that results in re-donning one’s restrictive undergarments to go on a quest for sustenance.
What is not sucking? Not sucking is defined in the realm of cooking pasta as creating a semi-Italian dinner that is edible, balanced and satisfying.
- Get your ingredients. Pasta, of course, is essential. Pick whatever shape you want: linguine, spaghetti, angel hair, bow tie (technically farfalle—who knew?), literally any shape but lasagna. Also get some canned spaghetti sauce. No, not Ragu—Prego, Bertolli and Newman’s Own are all great options. For extra credit, get a green bell pepper too—and some fresh basil.
- Get two pots. Two small ones if you’re cooking for one, two big ones if you’re feeding lots of people.
- Put water in one pot. Fill one of the pots about three-quarters of the way up.
- Boil the water. Make sure the burners on your stove are clean. Put the pot on one of the burners. Make sure the burner is clean. Turn on the burner with the pot on it. Make sure that burner is clean. Turn the heat all the way up. I cannot stress enough how important it is that you make sure that the woman whose children you are watching did not forget to take the grease-covered aluminum foil off the burners after her crazy mother-in-law left last week.
- What was I saying? Oh yeah. Wait for the water to start bubbling. Don’t put the pasta in when there are little baby bubbles chilling on the bottom—wait until the bubbles are big and active and popping. Throw in some salt if you want.
- Dump in the pasta. You can use the whole box even if you’re only cooking for one—that’s why God made refrigerators—but make sure you keep the package. That’s where your pasta-cooking directions are. Turn the heat to medium and let the pasta cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Then…
- Put the sauce in the other pot. Put that pot on the stove (after, of course, making sure that all your burners are clean). Turn the heat up to medium. You can microwave the sauce, but it’ll turn out better if you heat it on the stove.
- Add your extras. If you had the presence of mind to get the bell pepper, go ahead and chop it into little pieces. You don’t have to do this with the speed and precision of a professional chef—nobody’s watching you, after all, and if they are they can laugh all they want as long as you don’t hurt yourself. Add the pepper to the pot. Do the same with the fresh basil. Stir.
- Dump the pasta into a colander. That’s the bowl with the little holes in it that your mom made you buy when you moved into your apartment. Then, put however much pasta you want on a plate and cover it in sauce. Serve with toaster-oven garlic bread if desired.
Don’t forget to turn off your burners—trust me on this one. If you’ve got stories to share that will dissuade me from ever cooking again, go post them on the Facebook page or tweet @hownottosuckblg (no, there’s no o in “blg”). If you’ve got encouragement, I guess that’s okay too!