You know how life is just a bowl of cherries?
Well, how about how life is just a strainer full of heart pasta?
I’ve been making pasta with my own red sauce for years and years now. 20 years to be exact... And pasta always sounds good to me.
And while I’ve never made such adorable heart-shaped noodles to go along with my sauce until this month, I’ve always put a lot of heart into the recipe and the act of cooking it.
Back during my sophomore year in college, I was able to room and board in the newest dormitory housing style available on campus at that time. Now formally named after a donor to the college, back then the building was simply called “The Townhouses” - and it was, and is, in my opinion, the best dorm on campus of the small liberal arts college I attended back years ago.
So, going from a tiny and basic dorm room during my freshman year, into a suite of rooms connected with a kitchenette inside a shared living room, my second year, I was living the very best life for me at the time. And I loved that dorm as much as I loved my studies there.
The other amazing thing about The Townhouses, was the basement sitting deep underneath it.
The building houses a vast and open traditional basement, set up feeling just like a house. Even complete with a full kitchen downstairs. You know, for all the scratch made meals, Thanksgiving dinners, and home-cooked Sunday brunches that college students make on a regular basis while doing their coin laundry next to the computer lab.
And while that kitchen sat empty and collecting dust much of the year. I was determined to make use of it.
Eager to cook.
And very desperate for a home-cooked meal.
So when I realized one of the benefits of living in The Townhouses was that I was allowed free-reign over that basement kitchen, I knew I wanted to get down those stairs to that windowless basement and make myself right at home.
And, standing there looking at this really fun feature of my dorm, I immediately knew I wanted to do something special.
So, instead of just cooking a simple dinner for one, or two, or for even all my suite-mates, I had this grand and elaborate idea of cooking for the entire cross country team.
If you’re familiar with cross country and track, then you know about the traditional Friday night pasta dinners that go along with it.
Many such events were hosted by our coaches and assistant coaches, or alums, each and every week throughout the long autumn season of NCAA Division III athletics.
Well, I guess I decided I wanted in on this long-standing tradition and fun cooking festivity and celebration. I had a kitchen... I had a kitchen and I was going to use it.
I told everyone... pasta party at The Townhouses.
And word spread fast.
Not via cell phones.
And certainly not even through simple messaging or texting.
Four years before Facebook was invented.
Literally - just word of mouth.
And, knowing that I had just committed myself to host a team pasta party, I had to get supplies…
With little money - no credit card, or even a debit card yet, and a bit of cash, I went shopping.
I remember buying lots of boxes of pasta noodles. And lots of cans and jars of all that tomato-ey goodness.
With no recipe to follow...
I was getting myself ready to make A.LOT. Of sauce.
But before I could start cooking, and become Chef Bean in the kitchen of my dreams, in the windowless basement of a large building, I had to do one more thing.
I probably shouldn’t have told everyone that I was going to be cooking pasta and sauce for them without checking that basement kitchen for supplies… Or even merely for some pots???
Yes, there was a kitchen, but it was only after the informal and casual invite went out that I then discovered there were no pots, pans, mitts, serving utensils. Etc. Something… anything…. essential to the meal preparation - essential to any chef. But all things that a college student on a meal plan would not ever need to be thinking about.
If I needed it to pull off Bean’s Basement Bash with success, it was NOT going to happen at this rate.
I needed to buy a whole lot of stuff.
And I mostly needed a pot...
And so, without access to a car, I was limited to walking distance of the college. And I went shopping.
I was in search of a kitchen supply store.
Naperville, Illinois is part of a small and gorgeous downtown - a very nice, upscale, expensive, and fancy, and wonderful downtown. And while I do very much love downtown Naperville, there’s not much shopping a college student could do there any day of the week.
Knowing I couldn't drive anywhere, I looked up kitchen supply stores closest to me, and found a place called: Williams Sonoma...
Ok? I hope that's really a kitchen store? …..
Never heard of it at the time.
I walked there.
I went inside.
And I immediately knew I was in big trouble.
As my jaw dropped... at the prices….
Of the most beautiful copper pots my eyes had ever seen. I asked if they had anything less expensive? Oblivious, and not knowing anything about the store that I was standing inside.
The price tags sent me away in quite a little hurry. Actually, the price tags practically pushed me out the door and slammed it in my face.
But not before I took one last glance at the shiny, beautiful, and DREAMY copper pots. I stood outside the doors of the shop. Clueless. Shocked. And feeling very, very defeated.
Face to face with breathtaking pots, way over my price range, I said goodbye to Williams Sonoma. I said goodbye to a store that is now one of my favorite stores in any shopping mall it resides within. I may not own much of anything from there, still to this day… but I thoroughly enjoy looking at all the products when out and about. Browsing and dreaming.
And I didn’t know much about copper back then either. I just knew I liked the look of it. It brought back memories of Sunday with my father’s side of the family - the Italian side of my family. Sunday’s meant cooking in big old pots. And copper on the backsplash walls of my Papa and Grandma’s old kitchen - sitting inside their old house in the city of Chicago.
And also to this very day, I have a digital list on my phone, sitting in my notes app, entitled: Bean’s List.
I have lots of lists in my life:
I have Rory Gilmore pro-and-con lists.
I have grocery lists.
Two Week Plan lists.
I have lots of lists.
But my favorite list of all is Bean’s List.
Bean’s List is simply my ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING list. It’s my DREAM list.
It’s random. It’s anything I want to buy. And it’s everything I cannot afford.
It’s goals and wants and desires and dreams.
It’s my fun list.
And on that list - a list that I used to house on physical paper - sits a copper pot from Williams Sonoma.
Yes, I’ve now wanted a real copper pot for 20 years. 20 freaking years… Since the year 2000, during my sophomore year in college. Since Bean’s first Basement Bash held outside the walls of my family home growing up. Since my pasta party for the cross country team. Since that day I was in literal shock, and since the day my jaw sat on the ground as I dragged myself out of Williams Sonoma. Since the day I goodbye to the kitchen store of my dreams.
That’s how long I have wanted my own piece of copper to place inside my very own kitchen.
A beautiful, shiny, new, dreamy, and very large, copper pot. One that was sitting high up on the highest shelf in the expensive and wonderful Williams Sonoma.
Someday I will get that copper pot.
Even if I have absolutely zero space in my small kitchen to store it. I don’t care. I will sit it out on display somewhere. It can be housed on my stove top for all I care. That way I can stare at it. And dream of parties. Dream of cooking. Dream of cooking for other people. Dream of carb-loading for cross country meets. Dream of my grandparents house as a child. A small kitchen, with lots of food, lots of laughs. Italian Papa cooking the red sauce, Irish grandma talking with us kiddos. And copper hanging on the wall of the kitchen backsplash.
So that’s why a Williams Sonoma copper pot has been on Bean’s List for over twenty years now...
And yes, I ended up finding a pot for that party. And, I ended up hosting the Bash, just as planned. And yes, it was a fun night.
It was so fun that I never forgot that night. That Bash. At a place where any night and every night is a good night for a party - college. That night - was a great night.
And today, I don’t remember how well the food turned out? I don’t remember what ingredients I used in my first attempt at red sauce?
I just remember the joy of cooking. But mostly, I remember the joy of cooking for other people. And wanting for as many people as humanly possible to feast from that pot of sauce.
And that’s why red sauce is such an important meal to me, why we make it all the time, why we love it dearly, and why I wanted to share it with you today... Today - during the season of love… and during the month of Valentines… and red… and hearts. A time for simple - and shareable - red sauce.
But regardless of how many people one is cooking for. And regardless of the size of the pot. And regardless of the brand name of the pot that the meal is being cooked within. In the end, maybe cooking doesn’t have to be about any of that.
Maybe it’s about all the heart and soul that is poured, and grounded, and crushed, and chopped, and heated, and sautéed inside of that pot that really matters the very most.
While the meal may not have turned out perfect, the pot may have been old and scratched - a team of people still showed up to dine and to have some fun together. As they all sat inside of The Townhouses. Thinking about the upcoming run, and maybe even discussing the race taking place the following morning. But probably, and mostly, just chatting about that week’s episode of Dawson’s Creek. Or maybe The Princess Bride was being watched yet again.
And maybe while chatting over prime-time television, somebody was thinking of a pot… A pot made of copper, shiny and new; a large beast of a pot - taking up a lot of space inside the small kitchen of a very small apartment. And maybe while contemplating that shiny pot, the chef was dreaming of all the pasta-bilities yet to come. ~
Bean’s Red Sauce Recipe
Do you use any copper pots in your kitchen? I would absolutely love to know. Drop me a comment down below:
Also, y’all can check out these other delicious and comforting recipes from Bean’s Kitchen, here:
10) Bean’s Soulful Southern Chili
38) The Year Of The Sweater ~ Bean’s Minestrone Soup Recipe
43) Bean’s Bold Beef Stew Recipe ~
47) Bean’s Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnut Recipe ~ A Super Food For A Super Sunday
And, if you want to find out more about how I lost a whole lotta weight - completely naturally, and while utilizing the above recipes - plus, tips on maintaining weight loss, you can check out some stuff on all that right here:
7) My ‘Before & After’ ~~ How A Single Act Of Kindness, Lime Bubly, And MyFitnessPal Helped Me Lose 77 Pounds In One Year
17) Fall Flavors ~ Six Simple Steps I’m Taking This Fall To Maintain My Massive Weight Loss
21) Cinotti’s ~ And Why Life Is Too Short To Not Eat Donuts
37) New Year/New 007 ~ Here’s 20 Tips That Will Have You Seeing 20/20 In 2020 ~
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