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 ~
It’s winter y’all. And while it’s still pretty darn warm here in Florida at the moment, I’ve become so acclimated to the intense and fire-breathing dragon which is our summer heat, that right now it might as well be winter in Chicago. Any drop on the thermometer, even a pinch, and I’m absolutely freezing!
No joke. Like, for real.
And, I never enjoyed wearing sweaters. One year, many Christmases ago now, and after I was married, I received all sweaters for Christmas. All sweaters, and nothing more. Everybody who gave me a gift that holiday gave me a sweater. By the end of the evening on Christmas Day, I was literally drowning in sweaters sitting upon my lap.
I didn’t even ask for sweaters.
But sweaters I did get.
And to make matters even worse, my husband received all sweaters as well.
My mother-in-law correctly deemed it... ‘The Year Of The Sweater’ … and she really was absolutely right.
It remains to this day, one of the funniest things she ever told me, and it was all just so very true.
I’m not sure if anyone else on Earth has ever received as many sweaters for gifts as my husband and I both did that holiday a long time ago.
And for years afterward, I could not even look at a sweater without thinking of The Year Of The Sweater. I basically hated and despised sweaters since that infamous day of unwrapping all that extremely itchy wool I was then surrounded by and being suffocated from.
I mean, it could be well below zero outside, and I could be driving in a car with the windows rolled down, and I still would not succumb to the temptation of a nice and beautiful looking sweater that happened to be sitting next to me on the car seat. If it was a sweater, I was NOT wearing it.
Fast forward to today.
Living in Florida.
It’s beautiful. All year round. No joke. It’s perfection. I feel like I’m living in a paradise, or Heaven, or some combination thereof. I'm so used to the perfect weather that when the temperature takes a dip, I wear more layers than I’ve worn in my entire life, combined.
I could very easily be teleported to the Arctic tundra, and Santa Claus would hire me on the spot to work for him in his outdoor garden, simply because he wouldn’t need to buy me the standard uniform that would need to be worn in the elements. I’d already be wearing it. I’m ready for the cold.
So, yes, finally, at long last, the sweater has come back into my life. And it sits there and laughs at me with every breath I take.
It could be 69 degrees out here in Jax Beach, and I’m frozen solid.
And this winter is the worst yet - in terms of clothing. I’m in my third year living in The Sunshine State, and I was so desperate when the temperature took a slight dip that I had to go out and buy a big winter down puffy coat to get through the coldest days and nights.
And now, I’ve resorted to complete and total desperation while at home.
I currently take perfectly clean and dry sweaters, put them into the dryer, simply to get them feeling nice and toasty - steamy ... hot.
I RUN to the dryer the instant it buzzes me, and I wisk open the door of the magical appliance. I grab for the hot sweater, and hurl it around me. And then, what the heck, I might even throw on another layer. Then, finally, I can get back to work in my art studio, and I can actually concentrate. I’m from Illinois - and I’m now in Florida sitting under layers of blankets and sweaters with palm trees and perfect blue skies outside my window - I’m absolutely pathetic.
So naturally, while wearing sweaters, long pants and slippers, what does one eat when it’s a cold and frigid 70 degrees outside?
Soup. Of course. Minestrone Soup.
Today, I’m very happy to share with you my minestrone recipe that I have been making for years and years. It’s probably one of my favorite recipes that my husband and I both make together. It’s reliable, it’s consistent and tastes the same every time, it’s easy, and it’s very healthy.
I would say this recipe is a combination of my mother’s minestrone recipe, the internet’s soup, and our soup - rolling all those ideas into one perfect pot. We’ve tweaked it many times, and the recipe below is the one that is deemed perfection by my taste buds. So, we finally never waiver from this, our very perfect Minestrone Soup.
Also, I’ve done the calculations on MyFitnessPal, and at only 239 calories making 8 servings, it's not even heavy on the calories. And did I mention that it’s very healthy?
When we lived in Illinois, we tended to make this soup more so only in the winter months, as we tended to grill out every chance we’d get throughout the entire summer period.
But it IS winter in Florida, y’all.
So, as I freeze under fleece blankets and heavy sweaters, we desperately needed a hot soup to eat. We proceeded with the task, and dug out our biggest pot on New Year’s Day. Sometimes we make a big pot of chili on New Year’s, but this year, I needed soup. It called to me as much as I needed the warmth of a sweater straight from the dryer.
And I tend to think the best thing about this recipe is the week full of leftovers it will leave you with. (In our two person and one furry creature household, we have the first main dinner, and then about three nights of leftovers, both eating one bowl per night).
And I always recommend making a pot of soup on a Sunday. It’s the best day of the week for soup. On Sunday’s while you tend to your chores around the house, you can enjoy the scent of the long, slow simmer on the stovetop. But better than that, you have leftovers for the work-week ahead of you. So Sunday it is for us. Or New Year’s Day.
So this year, cold as we were, we enjoyed a nice, leisurely New Year’s holiday at home. Our little sous-chef helped us out in the kitchen…. It’s really important and vital to the entire kitchen operation that you hire such a chef. Your soup might not turn out correctly without one on staff.
And as our soup simmered long, and slow, and low atop the stove, we went through the annual routine of packing up and storing away all our holiday decor for the season.
I’m a huge fan of leaving everything up through the new year holiday if we can help it. So barring any trips or scheduling issues that would prevent us, we always take down the tree and pack everything up for the season on New Year’s Day.
We used to be completely dependent on the weather in Chicago as to when all our outdoor decor came down. If given a window of ‘nice’ weather, we had to go outside and take everything in before the world froze up again. Otherwise, we could be so unlucky as to potentially have everything sit out there until March or some other crazy date. So now I absolutely love that living here in the South the weather is not a factor to anything in terms of my household schedule.
I also took every item out of my plastic storage bins, and gave each bin a deep clean. By the time I was done with the entire process, my storage bins were clean enough to slap a pizza on top and eat right off of the plastic if one wanted. Clean AND organized, on New Year’s Day. Such a bonus.
We also purged a few older items, donating them to charity. Out with the old, in with the new. I try not to let clutter pile up until it’s unmanageable.
Overall, we had a very relaxing and productive New Year’s holiday. The soup made the day though. And as we sat down to dinner that holiday evening, watching Blue Bloods Season Eight on DVD, I was sitting under layers of blankets to keep warm during our Florida winter. And as I watched NYPD PC Frank Reagan sit at the head of his dining room table during one of the infamous Reagan family Sunday dinner scenes, surrounded by all of his kids and grandkids, including my favorite television character of all time, Danny Reagan, I couldn’t help but notice that Frank tends to almost always wear the same straw colored, button-down, cable-knit sweater to family dinner each Sunday. ~
Bean’s Minestrone Soup Recipe
For more of Bean’s recipes - click below:
~ Bean’s Soulful Southern Chili ~
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