the big noodle
March 12, 2006

I've been sick for what seems like forever (only a week?), which means that for the past few days I've been sitting in my apartment, not quite ready to do anything, but too well to just sleep. In other words: I'm bored out of my mind.

So when I'm finally hungry again—oh, the monotony of eating for sustenance alone—my brain goes a little haywire with the possibilities. Do I want something meaty? (YES!) Something creamy or pasta-y? (YES! YES!) Vegetables? (You get the picture.) But more than anything, I want to make something new, something I'll have to figure out. I settle on Pasta and Veal Roll, a recipe from a cookbook my mother put together years ago, though I can't recall her ever serving it. (Ironically, when I tell her I've made it, she says she was originally drawn to the recipe "to relieve the tedium of Texas winter," so its pedigree is sufficiently boredom-busting.)

Mom dubs this the "Big Noodle," and what's always seemed exotic about it (aside from the long list of ingredients) is the idea of making your own pasta. I don't get along well with my rolling pin, so I tend to buy ready-made pie crust and avoid anything else with dough. But I'm bored, so....

It's eye-opening: four ingredients, boiled, and I have pasta (and I don't even make much of a mess). I could do this again—I could make my own ravioli—stuffed with whatever I wanted. (I may never follow up, but I'm thrilled by this in the moment.) What's more, this daunting Big Noodle only takes an hour and 45 minutes to have on the table for Tracy and Cyrus (which makes me a little ashamed we don't sit down for Sunday dinner more often). It's not too heavy and rich like I thought it would be, and I think if we'd each been eating alone, we would have licked the tomato basil cream sauce off our plates (as it was, we scraped up the excess by the spoonful). Cyrus tells me it's his favorite thing I've ever made.

I also remember that my mother called the Big Noodle the inspiration for the bound collection of recipes she gave as Christmas presents one year (I made her a revised version when I was in college and all the recipes are now included in the search function on this site). "Writing a cookbook seemed infinitely easier than copying the recipe for Karen and Dot," she says. Sort of like building a recipe database seemed infinitely easier than emailing recipes on demand.

Well, it certainly relieves tedium, at any rate.



P.S. Whip the leftover ricotta with a spoonful of honey and eat it with apples, pear, peaches or berries. You won't be sorry—in fact, you'll probably want to lick the plate again. (Tracy wasn't home, so I did.)