I remember the first time I went to the grocery store after my daughter went off to college. Without much thought, I grabbed my keys and purse and headed out to Whole Foods. The car seemed to know the route despite the haze I found myself in. Ventura Blvd was lined with giant crape myrtle trees. The August heat hadn’t faded the vibrant purple flowers. Above me was a bright blue ocean, a color very similar to Lauren’s big baby blues. After strolling the aisles mindlessly and filling up my cart with the usual - veggies, yogurts, and orange juice - somehow my Kia Sorrento remembered the way back home.
Ever since Lauren was a toddler, she loved orange juice. As a two-year-old, she asked every morning for her ‘“muice.” I’d hear, no mommy I don't want any chocolate “milp”, I only want my orange “muice.” Lauren’s obsession with OJ continued well into her teenage years. Sleepovers always ended with a Sunday morning pancake breakfast. I have no idea how those 14-year-old girls guzzled glass after glass while devouring my triple batch of chocolate chip pancakes.
I placed the two bright orange cartons right next to my almond milk on the second shelf of the fridge door. As it closed, I began to cry, thinking, “No one in this house drinks orange juice anymore and I bought two containers.” It’s silly, but my heart felt like it had been torn into pieces realizing that no one was going to drink the juice.
Two years later when my son headed off to university, a very sweet Trader Joe's employee was straightening the selves of potato chips and asked, “Are you ok?” When I realized I didn't need to put three bags of tortilla chips in my cart anymore, I had lost it. Tears streamed from underneath my eyeglasses. A pattern of wet tiny circles saturated the top of my pink silk blouse. Black flecks dotted my cheeks. I could feel the weight of them. The heaviness poured out. I should have worn waterproof mascara! Did this mean there was no need to buy four blocks of cheddar cheese and a jar of extra spicy salsa either? Oh, my goodness! No one in our house will be making a giant tray of nachos every afternoon at 3:30pm.
Family dynamics change. The kids grow up and follow their dreams. I needed to adjust and appreciate the quiet. To remember the “us” before kids. Before the refrigerator and pantry overflowed with leftover pizza and grab n’ go snacks. I needed to embrace the opportunity to be spontaneous, create a new normal, and remember to cross orange juice off my grocery list.
This is the recipe for our favorite pasta dish for two. Simple, fresh ingredients, delicious flavor and ready in less than 15-minutes.
● ½ cup bucatini pasta (spaghetti will do)
● 1 cup whole-milk ricotta (vegan: try kite hill almond milk ricotta)
● 8 oz fresh baby spinach, washed
● 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve
● 1 lemon, zest and juice
● 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
● 1 garlic clove, pressed
● ¼ tsp both salt and black pepper
● Dash of red pepper flakes
1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Meanwhile, make the ricotta sauce.
2. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, olive oil, parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon zest and juice, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
3. Stir and taste to see if it needs more salt or pepper.
4. Use a mug to remove one cup of the pasta water when the pasta is ready.
5. Drain pasta and place the spinach in the empty pot, then add back the noodles.
6. Add the ricotta sauce and part of the reserved cooking water. Stir well to evenly coat the pasta in the sauce, add more cooking water as needed, you want a smooth and creamy texture.
7. Serve immediately and garnish with grated or shaved Parmesan cheese, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a couple lemon wedges.