Sometimes, my work weeks sprout up and grow like sinister weeds, threatening to choke my entire life in an incoherent jumble of superfluous paper work. This is bound to happen every once in a while if you insist on holding down a full time job + three freelance gigs + you possess a robotic sense of duty that stands in firm opposition to fun.
Add a few standard family-life snafus to the mix and food becomes something you cram in your head hole while talking on the phone and running down the hallway with too many bags strapped to your shoulders, not something you carefully prepare and savor with loved ones.
After just one of those weeks, I was craving my Dad’s spaghetti Bolognese, something that requires a full day of cooking, and a serious financial outlay to do properly, neither of which I had even the remotest desire to produce. (When I was a kid and someone moved my cheese or generally disrupted my need for absolute broken-record routine, I’d demand my Dad’s spaghetti Bolognese and eat it until my brain’s “uh-oh” button stopped flashing).
As an adult, when the goin’ gets tough, the need for Dad’s sghetti has not dissipated. Instead, it has been united with a visceral craving for fried Chinese takeout. The ideal treat is cold sesame noodles and dumplings with a side of Dad’s spaghetti. (Not great for my cholesterol, but cheaper than therapy. Also, I was raised Catholic, so chugging merlot straight from the bottle and crying for an hour in considered to be a healthier form of problem-solving than talk therapy. Eating pasta? Even better!).
Over the years, I’ve cranked out a few go-to recipes that meld the two comforting flavor profiles in one giant mound of noodles – and they’re super fast to make and transport, perfect for throwing in to-go containers so I can tote em along on my next zany errand.
I like the vegetarian version, Stephen loves the meaty version. Click on for recipes and pictures.
Porky Chinese Sghetti
Makes 4 big servings
- 2 TBSP vegetable oil
- ½ yellow onion, medium dice
- 1 tsp ginger, minced (or ½ tsp dried ginger)
- 1 TBSP minced hot pepper
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/3 cup Chinese cooking wine
- 1 tsp Thai fish sauce
- 1 1/3 pounds ground pork
- ½ cup vegetable or chicken broth
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- Salt, to taste
- 1 packet Lo Mein noodles (cooked in salted boiling water until tender)
- Optional garnishes: toasted sesame sauce, scallions, cilantro, sriracha sauce
- Heat oil over medium-high heat in big high-sided skillet or medium saucepan.
- Sautee onion until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add ginger, pepper, garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add wine, deglaze the pan and cook until liquid has reduced by half. Add fish sauce, ground pork, broth, soy sauce, salt to taste and cook until pork is no longer pink. Don’t overcook because the pork will dry out – there will still be plenty of liquid sloshing around, which is fine.
- Toss noodles in the pan with the pork and liquid, mix up well and serve.
Nutritional Breakdown for Porky Chinese Sghetti: About 700 calories and 25 grams of fat, much of it artery clogging.
Cost Breakdown for Porky Chinese Sghetti: About $1.50 a serving.
Verdict / In the Future: Stephen was running around like a nut this weekend, right with me. This kept him fueled and happy. I think it would be fantastic with a sprinkling of peanuts instead of sesame seeds. Next time!
Veggie Chinese Sghetti
Makes 4 big servings
- ½ cup smooth peanut butter
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ½ cup vegetable broth (chicken is fine too)
- 2 TBSP rice vinegar
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 2 TBSP honey (use locally made honey if possible, it may help combat allergies)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ TBSP fresh ginger, minced (or ¼ tsp dried ginger)
- 1 tsp curry powder, cayenne pepper, cumin (each)
- ½ tsp cardamom, coriander (each)
- ½ tsp sriracha sauce (or dried cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes)
- ½ tsp dried basil
- 1 packet soba noodles, cooked in boiling, salted water until tender
- Salt and pepper to taste (white pepper if you have it)
- ¼ cup toasted sesame seeds for garnish
- Other optional garnishes: Scallions, cilantro, more sriracha, sliced cucumbers or peppers
- Heat all of the sauce items in a large saucepan. (Big enough to house the noodles and the sauce). Bring to a light boil, reduce to simmer, stirring until thickened (a few minutes). Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
- Toss in cooked and drained noodles, throw on some garnishes and hit the road, Jack.
Nutritional Breakdown for Veggie Chinese Sghetti: About 525 calories and 17 grams of fat, most of it good-for-you skin-plumping fats.
Cost Breakdown for Veggie Chinese Sghetti: Budgeting babes, take heed – it’s only about $1 a serving.
Verdict / In the Future: This is probably my favorite comfort dish as an adult; it’s spicy, rich, packed with vitamins and minerals. And I can make it in 15 minutes.