When your wife is approximately 70 weeks pregnant, with a new baby due absolutely any day, how do you possibly keep your wits about you enough to cook dinner? Or for that matter, to do much of anything?
That first time around with a newborn, you don’t know what to expect. That’s by design; if we as humans had any inkling of what that first month of life as a new parent looks like, how little sleep you get, how loud a scream can be, how much poop you are perpetually covered in, we’d never have the guts to do it. That first time, we focus our thoughts on the bigger, existential questions, questions about how Our Lives Will Be Different, how We Have Responsibilities Now, and about How Many Sharp Corners the Coffee Table Has, without giving a lot of thought to the day-to-day mechanics.
The second time is different. You’re still scared silly, both for what it will mean for your current family, a rock-solid little three-pack that after almost three years, has grown incredibly resilient, flexible, and portable, and for the new life that is yours to shape, for better or for worse. Throwing that hand grenade of a newborn into the middle of a life that has just started to again become manageable and within your control seems even more foolhardy. The first time, you’re scared of the unknown of parenthood. The second time, the few known quantities that you do have experience with ratchet your fear up to all-new levels.
With all of that swimming through your head, that mix of pure, limitless joy, tempered with a healthy fear and respect for The Real occupying your every thought in the final hours before your partner and life mate goes in to have terrifying, miraculous medical procedures that will result in a whole new human being living in your house with you probably forever, how do you figure out how to put one foot in front of the other? More importantly, what do you make for dinner?
I’m keeping it super simple. Five ingredients, heated through. Onions. Garlic. Ham. Peas. Parmesan. A bit of starchy pasta water and butter for a quick pan sauce. Toss with really, really good pasta from the 50s-era Italian market down the street. Let good ingredients speak for themselves, and get out of the way. Coarse salt and fresh cracked pepper. Serve hot.
Slow down. Breathe. You can do this. You’ve already got the tools.
- 1 lb tagliatelle pasta
- 3 tablespoone extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 5 oz thick-sliced smoked ham, trimmed of excess fat, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1 cup cooked fresh or frozen peas
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions start to turn translucent, about five minutes. Add garlic and cook on e minute more. Add the butter, ham and peas and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 3 minutes more. Reduce the heat to very low to keep warm.
- Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the sauce and the salt and pepper. Toss the pasta, adding enough of the pasta water to make a light sauce. Serve hot.