Alright. I know it’s June, and June is hardly the time of year for comfort foods here in Jersey, but I (and about seven million other people, I reckon), are in need of some comfort after last night’s long-anticipated (by book readers, anyway) episode of Game of Thrones. Obvious disclaimer: There are spoilers here.
I devoured the entire series in the summer of 2011, shortly after the first season of the show wrapped up, so I knew what was coming in episode 309, aptly (and chillingly) titled “The Rains of Castamere.”
Since first finishing the series, I’ve become somewhat obsessed, and have read the books at least two times each. I’ve read the passage in which Game of Thrones’ penultimate scene transpires several times. I braced myself. I was smug. I listened to this on repeat. I was anticipating the Internet-wide meltdown that would inevitably take place around 10 P.M. I knew what was coming, and after the obligatory book-chucking that comes with reading that particular chapter, and working my way through the Kubler-Ross Model (and laughing when my dad sent me an email after reading the chapter with the subject line “HE’S KILLING EVERYONE!”), I was prepared.
Ha. No. No I wasn’t. I wasn’t slack-jawed in disbelief, but I was – and am – dealing with a lot of feelings. As is pretty much everyone I know who watches the show. (Except for my sister, who, as a die-hard member of Team Daenerys, said she was more upset when Drogo died. Something is wrong with her.) The look Roose gives Catelyn when she discovers he’s wearing chainmail. The horribly, horribly brutal stabbing of Talisa right in the womb, mere moments after she suggested naming the baby after Robb’s slain father (just rub some salt in that wound, Benioff and Weiss). The slaughter of Grey Wind as Arya looked on, unseen. Catelyn’s gut-wrenching sobs as she watched his firstborn child get stabbed in the heart by his bannerman, the last thing she sees before having her throat sliced open. The credits rolling over a black screen, silent. Colin and I sat for a good fifteen minutes after the episode was over, not talking. While I knew what was coming, I was not ready for it. Not at all.
It was masterfully done; don’t get me wrong. Honestly, the only thing I wish they’d done differently would have been leaving Arya’s fate ambiguous, as the books did, although I think George R.R. Martin and the show’s creators would have risked having their houses burned down and/or being torn to pieces a-la the High Septon during the riot in King’s Landing. Reassuring viewers of her fate was probably a wise move.
I never warmed to Talisa, and while Robb and Catelyn are not my favorite characters (Jaime), and not even my favorite Starks (Sansa), I’m still torn up about it, and in need of a hug and/or food that feels like one.
I figured that few things are more comforting than a nice mound of pasta slathered with a creamy tomato sauce full of cheeses, fresh herbs and chunks of chicken. And you know what? That, and a heaping dose of Arrested Development helped. A little.
The recipe is pretty simple – I love buying cans of plain tomato sauce and doctoring them up in different ways. It’s probably not as amazing as making your own sauce from scratch, but on a Monday night where you don’t have the time, patience or wherewithal to stew and peel tomatoes, fancying up a can of plain old cheap tomato sauce is a satisfying alternative.
We also had some fresh basil on hand (thanks to my dashing herb gardener boyfriend), and while I’ve never been that crazy about basil, the idea of it just seemed very appealing.
All in all, this is a warming, easy to make weeknight meal that I encourage you to enjoy, even if you aren’t reeling from the gruesome death of a fictional character.
Pasta with creamy tomato basil sauce
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 c chopped fresh basil
1/2 c sun-dried tomatoes
about 1 handful chopped spinach (fresh or frozen)
1 can plain tomato sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream
cheese, such as grated parmesan or shredded mozzarella
1/2 box pasta, such as small shells, ziti, penne, etc., cooked according to package instructions
1 cup chicken, cubed and cooked (optional)
Cook pasta according to package instructions. Season chicken with salt and pepper, cut into cubes, saute in olive oil (separate from the recipe’s 3 tbsp) until cooked through, and set aside.
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add your basil, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic powder, onion powder and red pepper flakes, and saute for about a minute. Add your tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Add your spinach, cover, and allow the sauce to simmer for about 20 minutes.
Add your cream and cheese(s) and stir to combine, until the cheese melts. Stir in chicken, if you’re using it, then add your cooked pasta, making sure to coat your pasta in all that delicious sauce. Serve with grated parmesan cheese and/or slivers of fresh basil.
Now I’m going to go for some feel-good dessert and watch this until my depression subsides.