My youngest child (I guess I can call him my “baby” since, he has only just turned three and can’t yet read, so he won’t protest) has the sweetest
little enormous speech problem. He calls this dish “mummy noonells,” and I think that says it best. I know it doesn’t read like a kids’ dish–or like anything special at all, for that matter–but it is cheesy and salty and garlicky and noodley, and I think everyone everywhere loves those four qualities. In fact, my big boy requested this very recipe for his seventh birthday a couple months ago. I almost felt like I was shirking my motherly responsibilities by preparing it for him because it is so ridiculously easy. One pot to cook the pasta, one cutting board to chop the other ingredients, 20 minutes start to finish.
Although this recipe costs more than many vegetarian meals (I think it comes to something like $13 or $14 all together, plus anything else you want to add on the side), I have two things to say in its defense. First, if you ordered it in a restaurant, you would pay that much for a single serving…and you would cheerfully order it again the next time. Second, the sundried tomatoes are the costliest part, at about $5 for a little jar, and it is easy to replace this ingredient with your own homemade version.
This past summer, when our plum- and cherry-tomato plants were still going crazy in August, and I was just about exhausted by trying to keep up with them, I started oven-drying the little fellas. I just cut them in half, tossed them in a tiny bit of olive oil, sprinkled them with a touch of salt and pepper, and then popped them into a 250-degree oven. After a few hours, they had magically transformed themselves into sweet, chewy little things, and–what we didn’t eat straight off the pan–I then placed into freezer bags. In six weeks’ time, I froze eight 1-quart bags of them. It didn’t require much time or effort, made my house smell wonderful, and was certainly a better use of the tomatoes than allowing them to shrivel on the vine.
I used them to make this dish about twice a month all fall and winter, just thawing out a cup or so and then soaking them in olive oil for an afternoon. I exhausted our supply only a month ago. So the jar of sundried tomatoes that I used in this recipe was the first one I had bought since last July. With my own sundried tomatoes in it, this meal (even including the pile of something green alongside it) costs less than $10. So there, budget-minded cooks. Pop that in your warm oven and dry it.
1 lb. pasta
1 little jar of sundried tomatoes packed in oil
6 fat garlic cloves (more or less), crushed through a press
Lemon juice, from one whole lemon
One bunch of parsley, chopped fine
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan
1. Start your water for the pasta. Salt it very liberally. When it’s boiling hard, add the pasta and cook it to al dente.
2. Meanwhile, drain the oil from your tomatoes into a liquid measuring cup. To the measuring cup, add the crushed garlic and the lemon juice.
3. On your cutting board, chop up the tomatoes and parsley and grate your Parmesan. Crumble your feta, if necessary.
4. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and quickly add it back to the pan. Add in everything else and stir it all together using a pasta claw.
5. Eat it.
Mummy noonells, indeed!