The title of this post comes from a great book I read several years ago that chronicles all the meals the author has made for the men in her life. When I read it at 21, I thought I could relate, but now at 26, I wish I had stolen and kept this title for myself.
The first boy I cooked for was my high school boyfriend Aaron. It’s funny thinking about the grown up things you want to do when you’re 14, but having no license or no money really prevents you from trying. I think it was Valentine’s Day. I followed a recipe from my mom’s Joy of Cooking for spaghetti bolognese, his favorite meal. I remember chopping the onions, carrot, and celery for the sauce and thinking it was so strange that these three things go in pasta. Now I understand the importance of mirepoix in cooking, the holy trinity, and I can recognize it in any dish I eat.
I spent a long time over the stove, stirring, smelling, following the recipe to a t, asking my mom if it looked right. Finally, it was the big moment and I was very nervous for my cooking debut. We ate in our library where I set up a card table and folding chairs. We shut the French doors and had the room to ourselves, although mom and dad definitely peeked their heads in a few times. I probably lit candles and played a Creed cd. He gave me a song he wrote about seasons changing and the color of my eyes. I think I thought this meal was the most romantic thing ever. Haha. I’m glad to be 12 years older and wiser now (if anything, at least in music taste!)
There have been more boys and many more pastas since that first bolognese. (And we get to drink wine with it now too!) Fresh corn and pesto cappellini on a rooftop, a super simple carbonara because I had nothing else in my fridge except two eggs and I really wanted to cook for him, rigatoni with sausage peppers and onions eaten on the couch wearing matching sweatpants, meatball lasagna for another Valentine’s Day, chicken and peppers penne with creamy goat cheese that we cooked together, adding pancetta to spaghetti because I want to win your heart over with bacon.
I love cooking for these guys and surely for the yet-to-be-determined next guy and guy after that. I love that I don’t have to follow recipes anymore. Garlic, olive oil, and butter is really all I need. Fresh veggies or heart-winning bacon? Throw it in. Got some heavy cream? Duh. And grated fresh parm on top of course. It’s so easy… (and now I guess I can leave my nerves for the part that matters). I love slyly waiting and watching them take their first bite, to see their reaction. (FYI dudes, this is a really important moment. Don’t f-it up. Tell me it’s good. Cause I know it is.) Oh and I love that these pastas are simple to make that I don’t have too many dishes to do after dinner. Extra props to the guys who offer to wash them, while I just sit there and do nothing.
Ok, here’s the cheesy part. There isn’t always a boy to cook for. But so what? I still make the same amount just for myself. And I still put in the same amount of love into it – honestly, probably even more. I still win over my own heart with pancetta. There’s still wine and memorable nights. I just have to do my own dishes.
I made this dish for dinner recently and it’s a perfect example of a no-fuss, delicious treat for myself. Here’s the Nikki no-recipe version:
Roasted Red Pepper Carbonara
In a big pan, sautée garlic, olive, oil and butter over medium heat. Chop roasted red peppers and add to pan. Meanwhile, boil water and cook pasta. Add al dente pasta to pan with peppers/sauce. In a small bowl, scramble a raw egg with salt and pepper. Swirl egg into pasta/peppers until creamy (but not too much that the egg cooks and forms white pieces). Add fresh parm and extra pepper. Serve with wine and side of cute boy (Ryan Gosling in Crazy Stupid Love will do just fine). Bon appétit!