By Ann Boyd

Food for the Soul: In Praise of the Simplest Pasta

Everywhere I turn these days, I am confronted with one simple fact: we are an embodied people.

We wear masks to protect our bodies from a dreaded virus. We experience tightness in our necks because our bodies aren’t designed for chain-zooming all day long. We are treated differently because of the color of our bodies’ skin. We miss hugging our friends with our bodies. We eat candy as a mindless way to silence the body’s request to stand up and stop typing. (Or is that just me? It doesn’t work, by the way.)

In these pandemic days, I’m absorbing new truths about our bodies and noticing afresh the intimate connection with our spiritual lives. Scripture overflows with stories of embodiment — the forbidden fruit, the manna, the Incarnation, the bread and wine. Being attuned to our bodies’ needs — individually and collectively — helps us to stay grounded in the present and to care for one another. And there is one sure-fire way to tune in beautifully: through food.

Let me hasten to say that I’m not necessarily advocating the creation of Instagram-worthy meals (although that’s great if you enjoy it). I’m simply suggesting that taking time to cook and eat is a reliable way to remember that we are people with bodies, people who need food and love and breath and a big stretch now and then.

Even the busiest women need to eat (although culture might argue against it — but that’s another subject). And because academics are so very busy, I’d like to recommend the simplest of all meals as a way to honor your time — pasta with tomato sauce.

No one needs a recipe for pasta with tomato sauce. But the simple act of boiling water is such a full expression of embodiment that we would like to recommend it here as an accessible and beautiful way to nourish yourself and your loved ones. We’ll even give a few options for those of you who would like to dig a little deeper into the realm of cooking, but mostly we hope that you’ll walk away from this screen empowered to feed yourself, body and soul.

Pasta with Red Sauce (three ways)

If you’re feeling virtuous, add a simple green salad. If you’re feeling decadent, add some cheesy garlic bread. If you're feeling balanced, add both!

The Simple.

Boil a large pot of water — about 4-6 quarts. Toss in a couple tablespoons of salt — this salted water will season the pasta from the inside out. Pour in the pasta (a one-pound box feeds my family of four plus leftovers for a few days) into the water and cook, stirring regularly, for 7-10 minutes (look at the package directions for an estimate of cooking time). In the meantime, heat your marinara sauce on low. Drain pasta, then toss with sauce. If you’re feeling fancy, grate some parmesan cheese on top.

The Protein.

Cook pasta as recommended above.

For the sauce, brown a pound of ground meat — beef or turkey work well — then pour the marinara sauce over it. Heat through. Toss with drained pasta and, again, some grated parm for a little boost.

The Extra Mile.

Start your sauce first. Follow Marcella Hazan’s recipe — a can of tomatoes, half a stick of butter, a halved onion, and some salt. Simmer for 45 minutes on low while you do something else — correct papers or play with your kid or put your feet up with a glass of wine — just stir that sauce once in awhile. When the sauce is thick and emitting luscious smells, start boiling water for your pasta as above and do the cook-and-drain process. Trash the onion chunks and toss pasta with sauce. Fancy it up with parmesan and — whoa! — a basil leaf or two. 

About the Author

Ann is the Women Scholars and Professionals Podcast host and the interim editor for The Well. She has worked for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship since 1997, exploring her interests in community, spiritual formation, and writing. Ann has a BM in Music Education from Northwestern University and lives in Chicago, Illinois with one husband, two spunky teenage daughters, and three snuggly cats. You’ll often find Ann baking sweet treats in the kitchen while listening to a podcast or audiobook.

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