Have you have had a week from hell? You know, the kind when you have a million deadlines approaching, presentations in every class, you’ve got no car because you got rear-ended, and you’re sick as a dog? I don’t know about you, but when I have weeks like that, my body begs for something cheesy, comforting, and downright indulgent. It is the only kind of fuel powerful enough to keep me from burning out in the face of a turbulent week.
This phenomenon in which hard times call for delicious food is quite common. In fact, we can explain it using psychology:
- The brain detects a stressful event. This is called a stressor. (Ex: finals)
- The stressor will then elicit a coping response, which is anything I do to try and lessen the stressor’s effects.
- In this case, the coping response is to seek out a big bowl of delicious, cheesy, and heartwarming food then eat myself into a coma.
- This is what we refer to as “emotion-focused coping.” It doesn’t solve the problem per say, but man, do I feel better after stuffing my face with some indulgent comfort food.
See? The need for food in troubling times is completely logical. So it only then makes sense that when you find yourself fighting in the epic battle that is you vs. the world, you need something truly mouth-watering and sinful to make it through.
Last week, when I was having my own “hell week,” my mind sent me a message: “CHEESE. LOTS. PASTA. NEED NOW.”
See? That’s how bad it was. My mind was so beaten up that it could barely form a coherent sentence. Luckily, I’m pretty good at decoding the language of my own brain, so I jumped right on that. The result was this luscious Blushing Mozzarella Marinara.
Pasta in and of itself is an awesome comfort food. It’s full of starchy goodness. I chose my favorite pasta of all for this dish: orecchiette. Not only is it adorable and therefore ideal for mood-lifting, but its bowl-like shape cradles ample amounts of sauce and cheese in ways that other pastas just can’t compare.
And this is something you’re going to want, my little cookies, because you need a pasta that can handle the epic amount of gooey melted cheese and sweet, zesty sauce involved in this dish. It all starts with a stellar marinara, made perfect with sweet San Marzano tomatoes, fresh basil, and hot red pepper flakes. Then, a splash of cream and dollop of ricotta infuse the sauce with indulgence, creating smooth, velvety creaminess. Finally, piles of freshly shredded mozzarella are mixed in until the point of optimum melty, gooey goodness is reached. You are left with a bowl of complete and utter indulgence.
I probably don’t need to tell you this, but this is sinfully delicious. It feeds your soul with mounds of cheese, flavorful sauce, and comforting pasta. Good quality ingredients make the dish special, but it’s incredibly easy to make. And that, my little cookies, is exactly the kind of dinner you need after the week from hell.
A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:
- Please use fresh basil. I can’t beg you enough!
- You could really use any pasta here; I just love orecchiette and its sauce-holding capabilities.
- You don’t have to use the ricotta, but it does add an extra bit of creaminess.
- This is a great weeknight dinner. It’s delicious enough that you have something to look forward to at the end of your day, but easy enough that you don’t have to dread cooking it.
- Always cook your pasta al dente! That little bit of bite is absolutely delicious. Who wants soggy pasta?
Blushing Mozzarella Marinara
by The Smart Cookie Cook, inspired by Food Network Magazine
- Kosher salt
- 12 ounces orechiette pasta
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3/4 cup torn fresh basil, plus more for garnish
- 1 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
- 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 – 2 cups freshly shredded mozzarella cheese
- Freshly ground pepper
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as the label directs. Reserve 1/4 cup cooking water, then drain.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the red pepper flakes and cook until the garlic is soft but not browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the basil and tomatoes with their juice. Increase the heat to high and cook until the sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium. Add the heavy cream, ricotta, and 1 1/2 cups of the mozzarella, stirring until well-combined and the mozzarella starts to melt.
- Add the pasta and the reserved cooking water to the skillet; cook, tossing, until warmed through and cheese is sufficiently melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Test to see if it is cheesy enough for your liking; if not, add the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella. Garnish with additional basil, if desired.
My worst weeks are nothing compared to my best food.