Today is the first Monday after New Year's, which means back to school and work all all sorts of things. For some unaccountable reason I scheduled my chiropractor and my hairdresser today, and this is also the day my new session of iyengar yoga classes starts. With the beginning of the usual workaday/school routine comes my desperate search for the ultimate easy dinners. I don't mind puttering in the kitchen when I have loads of time and I want to play. What I loathe is the necessity of doing it every day. But people--including me--have to be fed, and the only strategy is a few fail-safe meals that rely on very little in the way of effort or imagination. One of my favorites is a variation on Nigella's Pasta alla Medici, but which is known to us as Pasta with Peas and Ham. This works beautifully with leftover ham from the holiday, so if you have any lying around in the freezer, give this a try. Boil up some short pasta--elbows or penne are fine; I usually use rotini. As the pasta boils, chop up a few handfuls of ham. Seriously, you can use as little or as much as you want. When you're done with that, drain a can of peas or thaw some frozen ones. (I don't approve of canned vegetables except in this case.) When the pasta is finished cooking, drain it and return it to the pot and put it back on the heat on low. Dump in the ham and the peas and start stirring in cream. You won't need much, but you will have to judge for yourself precisely how much you need. It should moisten the pasta without puddling in the bottom. Then fling in a few handfuls of Parmesan in whatever form you like--grated, shaved, etc. Then grind over lots of black pepper. And you're done. No cooking of the sauce, no fussy roux, just comfort food in a bowl in the amount of time it takes to boil up some noodles.
And for those of you wanting a report on the tamales, they were DIVINE. I like tamales with thin masa, and these were lovely. We had beef and pork, and next time we're ordering the bean and cheese. You can find them at Texas Tamale Warehouse.