Journal of the Plague Year 2020: This Sauce Isn’t Cheating, It’s Just Smart

pasta and sauce
Why eat by candlelight when you can enjoy the mellow glow of a crystal chandelier? Buy used furniture and local food. Strip down to your skivvies. Eat over a book.

My go-to grocers, Time Market and the Food Conspiracy, sell a lot of local produce, meat and prepared foods. This offers handy, tasty shortcuts for hot-weather cooking. The produce is fresher and surprisingly varied; the meat is luscious and better for you.

I’ve been meaning to make bolognese sauce, but it’s frankly too hot to do that even at sunrise. So last night I diverted a few key ingredients, and took a series of shortcuts:

Start with one link of Neiman Ranch Fennel Pork Sausage, or your foodshed’s equivalent. Neiman’s comes cooked, so just thaw it out, strip off the casing, mash it up, then brown it until the kitchen gets miserably hot.

Add two handfuls of arugula or rainbow chard. The chard is amazing with the stems roughly chopped, but it takes longer to cook. Hell, if you’re patient, you can pop a few ice cubes in your sports bra and go full kale. Whatever you pick, sauté it until it’s tender. Don’t lie to yourself and leave it crunchy and bitter.

Add prepared marinara sauce. My ace in the hole is Chef Scotty’s San Marzano Marinara, which has just enough heat to be interesting. Heat everything through, then turn it down to low.

Boil up a high-quality pasta. I went with De Cecco fusilli, because I ran out of monk-made angel hair. I’m too lazy to mix the drained pasta with a bit of olive oil, but you should probably do that.

Sauce the pasta, and top it with pretentious cheese. I hate to clean the cheese grater, so I just pried a few chunks off a wedge of Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar.

It was less than 30 minutes start to finish, and the thermostat peaked at 82 F.

That’s not cheating, Reader. It’s just smart.

Serve by the light of a vintage chandelier, with a local wine you’ve been meaning to try because it has a cool label. I picked Merkin Vineyards Chupacabra Blanca. The merkin part is kind of silly, but I couldn’t resist the mystery of the chupacabra.

Stats from yesterday are below — better, but still not to our credit. For now, find a moment of pure pleasure in the whirlwind.

Love,

J.A. Thompson

Confirmed Covid-19 cases in Arizona: 185,053
Current hospitalizations: 1,772
Deaths: 4,081

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