We have a recipe in our family, it’s called pasta with stuff.
Clue’s in the name. It’s pasta with whatever stuff you have in the cupboard or fridge. There’s always a tin of tomatoes, so that goes in first, with some leftover veg (onion, carrot, spinach, pretty much anything can get thrown in there). Some meat, if it needs using up, or a tin of tuna. Olives, if I’m feeling fancy and they’re there; same goes for capers. Let it all bubble together in a pan whilst the pasta cooks, stir together, and you’re sorted. Bonus points if there’s some cheese in the fridge to sprinkle on top.
It’s not glamorous, but it’s cheap, easy, and on the table quickly. Best of all, I can use what we already have, which means I don’t have to go shopping. Win. When I’m busy, tired, ill, or just plain lazy, we have pasta with stuff.
But I always feel a slight twinge of guilt when putting pasta with stuff on the table. It’s not exciting or fancy, it really is the bare minimum required to be called cooking. Usually, I enjoy cooking – it’s my love language, the way I show my husband, family and friends that I care about them, as well as my creative outlet and general relaxation time. Serving pasta with stuff, the very laziest of meals, seems like a cheap getout, like I’m offering the diners the very least of what I can do.
So when my husband asked what was for supper a few weeks ago, I admitted rather apologetically that it would be, “Pasta with stuff.”
To my intense surprise, his face lit up. “Ooh! My favourite!”
I was baffled. I had spent hours fretting that pasta with stuff wouldn’t be good enough, that he deserved something much more elaborate. I couldn’t justify not doing something bigger; after all, I had been at home all day. But sure enough, when suppertime came round he was just as excited for a plate of pasta with stuff as he would have been for any three-course fancy meal I could have placed in front of him.
How often do we waste our worries on things that those that love us most care about the least? Those extra few pounds you grimace at in the mirror is exactly what your children love when they come for a cuddle. Those lines around your lips that you hate reminds your husband of many hours spent laughing, smiling, sharing jokes and cuddles.
Those prayers offered up, muttered quickly or half-asleep because you were so busy cleaning up messes all day, might be the ones God loves most. They’re offered from the heart, and mean as much as a perfectly sung Angelus. Offering our best doesn’t mean being perfect; it means being imperfect, acknowledging our flaws, and doing what we can anyway. And we need to trust in God – and God’s people around us – that we will be loved, not in spite of our flaws, but because of them.
God sees the good in all of us. He sees the beauty in our scars, our exhaustion, our frequent stumbles. He doesn’t merely overlook them, he cherishes them as what makes us each unique children of His.
And at the end of the day, I think that God enjoys pasta with stuff as much as he does a lobster bisque followed by steak and chocolate cheesecake.
Recipe: Pasta with Stuff
Time: about 20 mins
Serves: as many as you like
Occasion: lazy mid-week meal
Pasta, any shape, enough for however many you’re cooking for
Oil, butter, or cooking spray
Garlic cloves – to taste!
Tinned tomatoes – one tin serves around 3-4 people, depending on how much other ‘stuff’ you’re adding
Vegetables – whatever you have in the fridge. Carrot, mushrooms, and spinach are some of my favourites in this dish.
Optional: meat, such as bacon, chorizo or ham; sausages; minced beef; alternatively prawns or tinned tuna if you prefer fish
Optional: added extras such as anchovies, olives, capers, sundried tomatoes, chillis, wine, herbs – or whatever takes your fancy!
Optional: parmesan cheese, to serve
1. Put the pasta water on to boil and salt generously.
2. Chop the onion and fry it in a little oil, butter, or spray until soft. Chop the rest of the vegetables and add to the pan.
3. Add the meat, if using, and allow to brown.
4. Pour in the tinned tomatoes and stir until well mixed.
5. Add the fish, if using instead of meat.
6. Add any extras that you’d like – including the wine! Allow to bubble, stirring regularly.
7. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste, and add the crushed garlic.
8. Put the pasta in the pan and cook for 8-10 minutes until al dente.
9. Drain the pasta, add the sauce and serve with parmesan cheese.
If you give this a go yourself, let me know what ingredients you added! I’d love to know if you went more adventurous than me, or tried some completely new flavours.