I have to assume that you love food if you are reading a food blog. And by this point, you have to know that food is a driving force in my life as well. So I thought I’d take today and tell you what it’s like, as a food lover, to not love food for the duration of my first trimester.
I’d be sitting at a stop light, thinking about meals I ate just before the nausea set in…pulled pork, baked ziti…and I’d want to want them, but I just couldn’t.
I was once really proud of myself for eating a taco. A taco seasoned with the ever-exotic Ortega store packet whose only topping was cheese. No salsa, no onions, no sour cream, no lettuce, no cilantro. Just cheese.
Mostly, food made me feel like this comic, sans the very last part about eating it anyways:
All foods, except those on the following list, tasted to me like spoiled medieval plague jelly:
Graham Crackers and peanut butter.
Red seedless grapes.
Five La Croix sparkling waters a day.
And citrus forever.
Sometimes I would literally cut up a lemon just to stand there and smell it. You’ll notice that 7 of the last 10 posts include some sort of citrus juice or zest.
Eric, left to fend for himself as far as dinner, would heat up a frozen pizza and I would briefly consider kicking him out of the house because the garlic smell on that DiGiorno’s was just too much.
Standing at the deli section of the grocery store, looking at the platters of fried chicken and the bowls of creamy pasta salad is an exercise in throwing up in your mouth without anyone noticing.
Eric would sit down next to me on the couch, only to be immediately barraged with questions like:
“You smell like ketchup. Did you eat ketchup?”
or ”Why would you even think about kissing me when your breath smells like hamburger/cat poop?”
And have you ever tried to wrestle with a baby gate while trying not to throw up all over your dining room floor? No? Well, let’s just say I have perma-bruises on my upper thighs from ramming into the gate repeatedly in my attempts to make it to the toilet on time. The ratio of finger dexterity to dry-heaving is not in your favor.
But! I tell you all of this from the other side. After an appetiteless first trimester, and a week-long stomach flu that killed any remaining hope of normal eating I’d clung to, I am happy to tell you that I am now eating like a horse.
And it started with this pasta. Owen and I were playing in the backyard last week, when I started to think that I should probably boil up some pasta for his lunch. I figured I would eat my typical pasta with lemon juice, zest, and butter (so food-blog worthy, I know). But then it hit me: a lemon cream sauce would be…what’s that?…good! I had a craving folks, and let me tell you, it was like the heavens opened. I literally texted Eric and wrote, “I think I’m HUNGRY!!!”
A quick search around the internet for lemon-based cream sauces led me to believe that bacon should definitely be involved, and an hour later, Owen and I were sitting down to my first real meal in months. And we’ve made it several times since. This pasta is legit, ya’ll.
Crisp-fried bacon leaves behind its grease to serve as a base for a thickening roux. Sautéed garlic and leeks are added, followed by some dried herbs (including basil, which would be excellent fresh in this dish, that is, if you’re not allergic. Of course, then comes the milk and a generous amount of lemon juice and zest. All of this gets mixed with shell pasta, that crumbled bacon, and I took the liberty of adding tender-crisp red bell peppers and sugar snap peas because it’s summer and vegetables are appealing to me again.
This pasta makes a ton – perfect for a large crowd or several days of leftovers. We are totally adding this to our regular rotation because not only is it delicious but it now holds a special place in my heart as the dish that officially brought my appetite back.
(recipe by Carpé Season, loosely inspired by one at Our Best Bites )
(yields: 6-8 servings)
I was inspired by the sauce in the recipe from Our Best Bites and changed it by adding more bacon, and throwing leeks into the mix. However, I turned their recipe for baked tortellini with spinach into what you have here: unbaked, with pea pods and bell peppers. We love this dish and it's officially a part of our rotation!
3 large handfuls pea pods, trimmed and deveined
6 slices bacon
2-3 tbsp. bacon grease, reserved
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 leek, white and a little of the green, diced
2 tbsp. flour
2 c. milk (I used 2%; the creamier, the better)
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/8-1/4 tsp. black pepper (to taste)
1 1/2 tsp. dry basil (or about 1 tbsp. fresh added later*)
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tsp. lemon zest
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 bell pepper, seeded and veined, then chopped (I liked red in this dish!)
1/2 lb. uncooked pasta (I used medium shells)
1-2 c. shredded mozzarella (or about 1 small handful per serving)
If using fresh basil, add just at the end of the sauce cooking time, not with the other dried herbs.
Prepare the peas:
A few hours before starting the recipe, I like to fill a large bowl about a 1/3 of the way up with water and place it in the freezer. This will serve as the base of the "ice bath" needed later. When it's time to chill the peas, I fill the rest of the bowl up with cold water. This saves me from using up all my ice. OR you could just use a ton of ice + cold water to create your ice bath. Either way - prepare your ice bath :)
Bring a medium sized pot of salted water to boil while you prepare your peas. When it's boiling, dump prepared peas in, cover, and boil for 2 minutes. Immediately plunge peas in your ice bath.
When they are totally cool, drain, and rough chop. Set aside.
Meanwhile, crisp fry your bacon over medium heat. When crisp, remove from heat and let drain on a paper-towel-lined plate. When cool, crumble into small pieces. Set aside.
Heat 2-3 tbsp. of the reserved bacon grease over medium-high heat in the same pan you cooked the bacon in. Add the garlic and leek and sauté for 1-2 minutes until just softened. Then sprinkle in the flour and use a whisk to constantly stir for about 1 minute or until the combination is smooth and no flour "chunks" remain in the pan.
Reduce heat to medium. Slowly add 1/3 of the milk at a time, whisking well between each addition, until smooth. Add salt, black pepper, dry basil (if using), and red pepper flakes and bring sauce to a simmer.
Once simmering, add the lemon juice and zest; then add your bell pepper and continue to cook and stir for another 2-5 minutes or until sauce is thick to your liking and bell peppers are slightly softened.
(Add fresh basil in last minute of cooking if using).
Meanwhile, cook and drain your pasta according to package directions.
In a large bowl, combine pasta, sauce, pea pods, and bacon. When serving, melt a handful of mozzarella cheese over each serving.