Don’t overthink the comfort foods

For New Year’s, most of San Juan County was hit by snow storms, dumping much-needed moisture in the mountains, and in and around the towns. This is definitely a blessing!
However, it did make travel difficult, so the truckers delivering goods for the stores and packages from Amazon weren’t thinking themselves blessed.
That’s balance though – a pro for a con – and proof that not everyone can be made happy at the exact same time.
Alright then. During 2022 I wrote several articles on preserving basic foods, sustainability, and not having the delusion that all will always be available.
If readers paid attention, the days locked inside the home during the storms shouldn’t have been hardship.
Then again, 2020 through 2022 should have been teaching the same notion of making sure to be stocked up in case of emergency.
Deep breath. Let’s put aside the feeling of being overwhelmed and embrace the healing ideal of comfort. With food, wanting something to eat that gives a warm, comforting feeling could either be simplistic or complicated.
It depends on what you believe is a comfort food. While someone believes it’s mashed potatoes with butter, someone else is looking for baby new potatoes topped with creme fraiche and caviar.
The one thing that needs to be remembered is that you should be just as comfortable making the dish as you are eating it.
A cuisine that embodies comfort is Italian. Italian food wraps itself around you like a blanket. While the pasta is your pillow, the sauce massages the aches and pains from the body.
Sound nice? Funny though how many folks I have met who are scared to death to make Italian recipes. “It’s too complicated or difficult.” “I’ll never find all the ingredients I need.”
“How do I know I’m doing it right if I’ve never tasted it before?” The answer to all three questions: “You’re overthinking it!”
You can’t make comfort food if you’re putting such stress upon yourself. Relax . . . do . . . enjoy.
Making homemade pasta sauce is relatively easy nowadays, especially since almost everyone and their mother owns a crock pot (slow cooker).
Now let’s make an Italian casserole that’s so easy you’ll kick yourself for having self-doubts on your ability to make it. Hints: if you can’t find ziti in the pasta aisle, use another tubular pasta such as penne or rigatoni.
If you want meat in your dish, grill up some Italian sausage or make meatballs. Please, please do not buy frozen meatballs. They are so full of fillers that’s why they can bounce!
Remember, with my sauce and meatball recipes, you can halve them or make the full recipes and they can be frozen for up to six months.
You did cut out those recipes from the newspaper and put them in your recipe box, right? Oh, when cooking your pasta up, use a little olive oil in the boiling water instead of salt. That still keeps the pasta from sticking together, but adds more flavor.
Baked Ziti
Ingredients: 1(16 oz.) box ziti, or tubular, pasta, 6 cups homemade pasta sauce plus 2 extra cups, 1(16 oz.) bag shredded mozzarella plus 1(8 oz.) bag shredded Italian cheese mix
Preparation: Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 3-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Prepare ziti according to package directions. In a large bowl, mix together thoroughly the cooked ziti, 6 cups of sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese.
Spread out mixture into baking dish and top evenly with the shredded Italian cheese mix. Bake for 30-40 minutes; until cheese on top is melted and just starting to brown at the edges.
Serve with the extra two cups of sauce for anyone wanting more sauce with their pasta, or to dip bread (preferably toasted garlic bread) into.
Makes 6-8 servings.
Note: If you have room in the freezer, before baking, split the pasta/cheese mixture between a baking dish, and an aluminum foil baking pan.
Wrap the aluminum foil pan, first with a layer of aluminum foil, then either plastic wrap, or insert into a plastic freezer bag.
Label with name and date, then when ready to bake remove the plastic and place in oven at 450F for one hour.
Remove aluminum foil, spread Italian cheese mix over all, and bake an additional 15 minutes. The pasta casserole will be good for up to six months in the freezer.

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