“Depression style” pasta with peas

Clearly not having learned my lesson with Tuesday’s fiasco, I ventured once more into the kitchen. This time, I wanted something that didn’t involve vermicelli. Something simpler. Something from Depression Cooking with Clara, specifically her pasta with peas. Don’t ask me why. It’s just what I felt like having tonight.

All told, it wasn’t horrible. It was a bit on the mushy side, and it definitely needed some pepping up with tomato sauce and grated cheese, but I’d eat it again. Which is good, because I’ve probably got about 3 servings’ worth of leftovers.

Also in the “good news” category, this cooking experiment was far easier on the nerves: I didn’t even come close to blowing up my kitchen this time. I did have a bit of a challenge when I tried to put the peas into the pot, mind you. I was using frozen peas instead of canned, and to simulate the water in the can of peas, poured some water about halfway up the measuring cup that I had the peas in. What I hadn’t counted upon what that this apparently froze those peas together into a solid clump that required a bit of whacking with the wooden spoon to separate once in the pot. But it worked out in the end, and (like I said) the kitchen didn’t explode.

For my own recollections, and for those who are interested, a plain-English recipe (along with my comments) follows behind the cut.

“Depression-style” pasta with peas

1. Peel and cube one potato, chop one onion, and add to a pot with some olive oil. Fry over medium-ish heat until the potatoes start to get tender, maybe ten minutes or so.

Chef Julie’s notes: I also added two cloves of garlic, because I like garlic. Next time, I think I want to try adding the onions and garlic before the potatoes, but that’s because I really like fried onions. Starting them along with the potatoes meant they weren’t quite fried enough for my liking. Also, I should probably fry the potatoes for less time, as they were pretty mushy in the end result.

2. Add one can of peas, juice and all. Stir.

Chef Julie’s notes: I used just over a cup of frozen peas and filled the container I was using to hold them about half-full of water. I probably didn’t need to add the water, on reflection, given step #3.

3. Let the peas heat up just a little bit, then add warm water directly into the pot, enough to cook about a cup of pasta. Let it come to a boil.

Chef Julie’s notes: This was the part of the recipe I was most curious about, as I’ve never tried to cook pasta with other stuff already in the pot. In the end, it didn’t turn out too badly. I’m sorry I can’t specify the amount of water. I filled my pot to about 2 inches above the level of the stuff already in it, or about halfway up the pot. It turned out more-or-less right, maybe a bit on the “too much” side.

4. When the water comes to a boil, add a cup of small pasta, and add salt and pepper to taste. Turn off the heat, cover, and let cook 5-10 minutes, to taste.

Chef Julie’s note: I used the pasta from a box of macaroni and cheese, which are very thin elbow macaroni. It’s what I had on hand, and worked decently well. Clara notes that instead of keeping the pasta water boiling (as I would normally be inclined to do), you can turn off the stove, cover, and the residual heat will cook the pasta. Nifty trick, though it does take a little longer than normal. I think I had mine cook for about 8 minutes or so, which may have been a touch on the long side.

5. When it’s ready, add more salt and pepper to taste. If you feel it needs it, add some tomato or pasta sauce. Serve with grated cheese. Serves three or four.

Chef Julie’s notes: Clara didn’t drain her pasta, but I did. I think I added more water than she did, and I wanted a pasta meal, not a pasta soup. I found that it was quite bland, and added about a quarter of a jar of pasta sauce (ten soup spoons’ worth, or thereabouts). It made it much better. I actually forgot to add grated cheese until I was halfway finished eating, but that made a big difference, too. Need to remember that for next time. Also, this recipe needs a LOT of pepper to pep it up. Very bland otherwise. With both tomato sauce and cheese, it’s decently tasty, if somewhat mushy.

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