Who invented the modern Valentine’s Day? I bet if I did a little research I’d find a Whitman, Hallmark, Stover or Hershey had a hand in it. Maybe it was those Necco folks with their chalk-like Sweetheart candies carrying messages of “be mine”, “kiss me”, and “let’s get busy” (did they forget there were children buying these?) Regardless of who started it all, over the years Valentines Day has become an event that could go really well or really badly, and it doesn’t matter if you are in a relationship or not. Will he or she remember? Will it be a disappointment? Will I have somebody or be a poor unloved schlub sitting on the couch in my bunny slippers with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, a soup spoon and an oven mitt (pint-holding hand gets cold.) I read recently that the biggest surge in online dating sign-ups is the span between New Year’s Day and Valentines Day. I suppose love-searchers flood the market at that time in an attempt to avoid the terror of being (gasp) ALONE on the day of cards, roses, cupids and Whitman Assortments. And to that I say PHEWY! Oh sure, I’ve had my share of V-Days sitting on the woe-is-me throne too. More than once I popped a revenge-themed movie into the machine and watched some smarmy lothario meet a gruesome end while donning oven mitt, raising soupspoon and digging into the Chunky Monkey or Cherry Garcia. Then I had a Valentinian epiphany.
Over my 30ish years of romance history, I can only remember one Valentines Day that met expectations. Probably because I didn’t have expectations. It was my first go-around with real love, we were young, poor, and thought the best way we could celebrate was just spend time with someone we loved. And I think that was the key. When I look back on all the Valentines Days since, the best were spent not with one special someone, but with special someones. Who says you can’t celebrate a day of love with your friends? It’s likely they are the ones who know you best, loved you the longest, and will hand you that glass of wine and box of tissues if your newest amour goes in the soup. So if you find yourself reaching for that pint and mitt and box of whine this Thursday, reach for the phone instead and invite over a friend or two. You’ll probably have a much better time, a lot more laughs, and will have celebrated the “day of love” with ones you love. And if the pizza delivery guy is cute, well hey….you never know!
One of my all-time favorite viewing choices for V-Day (or any other day) is Moonstruck. To me it’s the perfect movie, which is probably why I know most if not the entire dialog by heart. So in honor of amore, what better dish to make than Pasta Fagioli? After all, if the stars make you drool just like pasta fazool….
This recipe is a quick and easy version, and one of my go-to winter soup recipes when I need a little pick-me-up and some culinary amore.
Makes about 11 cups, which is plenty for you, friends, lovers, AND the pizza boy.
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups water
- 2 cans cannellini beans
- ½ TBSP olive oil
- 1 carrot, diced
- 2 ribs celery, diced
- ½ an onion, diced
- 6 oz. (1¼ cups) ditalini, small elbow macaroni or some other small pasta
- 1 oz. piece of parmesan rind (optional, but great if you have it)
- 2 TBSP chopped parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup grated parmesan for sprinkling
Heat the oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat. Add all the vegetables and a pinch of salt and saute until they begin to soften but not brown, about 5 minutes. Drain one can of the beans. When the veggies are ready, add half of the stock, the water, 2 cans of beans (one drained, one not), and parmesan rind to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 15 minutes. Uncover, add remaining stock and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender, about 9 minutes or however long your package says. Once the pasta is cooked remove the parmesan rind and stir in chopped parsley. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Calories: about 145 per cup.
To serve, ladle into bowls and sprinkle with grated parmesan. Now that’s amore!
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