Last night we had some old friends over for dinner. After brief consideration, I chose a main dish I thought everyone (including Zoe) would enjoy: baked ziti.
When I say baked ziti, I mean the Cook’s Illustrated recipe from 2009. (Pro Tip: I also mean baked rigatoni, since it is surprisingly difficult to find ziti, but “baked rigatoni” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.)
This is not a challenging dish to prepare, but it does take a fair amount of time, so while Zoe took a blessedly long nap I boiled and chopped and stirred. I cooked in silence, which is such a lovely sound sometimes, and as I cooked I thought about some of the other times I’ve made this creamy, cheesy delight. Most notably:
My dad’s 65th birthday. Tiny seminary apartment kitchen, two pans worth of ziti, five months pregnant, all the leaves in the table, all the Chicago Luxes in attendance. Cook’s Illustrated yellow cake with chocolate frosting for dessert.
Seminary Progressive Dinner. Everyone else made lasagna, but I went for the ziti. I was six or seven months pregnant. I ate a stunning amount of cheesy pasta in those nine months.
This time, the tomato sauce was a tiny bit thin and the noodles were slightly overcooked. Zoe refused to eat it. (Pro Tip: Her refusal was not based on these small imperfections; it was based on being two-and-a-half years old.) But that was beside the point.
I treasured the chance to make a special meal that reminded me of other special meals. I treasured the conversation we had over that not-quite-perfect baked ziti.
And: I treasure the fact that we will enjoy the leftovers for supper tonight.