Welcome home! Now eat.
It always always always comes down to food. My son went to a meet in California with his swim team and one of my biggest concerns was-
Is he eating enough?
Knowing how much he eats at meals and in between meals, so basically all day and maybe even while he’s sleeping, I worried that there was no way he could be getting enough food away from home. Most meals for the trip were planned by the team, but he was also armed with a suitcase of protein bars and a wallet with cash and Amex cards to supplement as needed. It might not be pretty, but he had the means to be getting a decent amount of food.
My other concern was-
As I watched him go through airport security with his team, I stood in disbelief. Just like the first day of preschool, I waited for him to turn back and look for me. Maybe he would look for a little reassurance or give me a look to let me know that he was going to miss me. Instead I watched the back of his head as he swiftly moved through the line until he was out of my sight.
14+ years flashed through my head. There was nothing left for me to do but turn and leave. As luck would have it, my husband was out of town that same week. My 17 year old is mostly self-sufficient going to work all day and seeing his friends at night. I caught a glimpse of my future and I didn’t really like it.
I did what any other sane mother would do- I cyber-stalked him. I tracked his flight until he landed. I waited for a text to show a sign of life (and maybe sent him a text or two). He didn’t give me much info, but after a couple days, the meet finally started so I could stalk his results online and even better, his team’s Facebook page. FINALLY, I saw pics of him on deck, behind the blocks, and in the pool. I was relieved to see that he’s alive and well and then I saw this one-
Yikes that’s a whole lot of bones. My mind raced with worry that he’s not eating enough and tapping into muscle for fuel. I counted down the remaining days until he was home. Obviously, I planned his first meal back at home.
Welcome Home Pasta. If an Italian restaurant has a pasta dish with sausage, peppers, mushrooms in a light wine sauce, my husband will order it no matter what. It’s a given. That said, his 14 year old mini-me is the same.
As the final days ticked by, I made a plan for his first dinner back home. After a week of being off duty, I needed something to do. I shopped, prepped, and cooked. I tracked his flight and drove to the airport. After a little delay, his team finally entered baggage claim to cheers and applause from fellow swim parents. Technically, we were cheering for our team that brought home FIRST place, inside we were congratulating ourselves for making it through the week.
There’s an episode of The Simpsons where Marge goes away for the weekend without Homer or the kids. When she returns, the kids talk over each other saying how much they missed her and how great it is to have her home. Homer just keeps saying the same thing over and over-
NEVER LEAVE AGAIN. NEVER LEAVE AGAIN. NEVER LEAVE AGAIN. NEVER LEAVE AGAIN.
But then I remember that this is what it’s all about. Teaching the kids to fly and watching them spread their wings. And that is exactly what he did.
- 1 box rigatoni
- 1 1/2 lb bulk Italian sausage (I used chicken sausage)
- 8 oz fresh baby bella (or cremini) mushrooms- cleaned and sliced
- 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 2 cups diced fresh tomato
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup Marsala wine
- 2 cups chicken broth or stock
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp fennel seed
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- Olive oil for sautéing, as needed.
- Parmesan cheese for serving.
- In a large nonstick saucepan, drizzle 2 tsp olive oil and let the pan heat up.
- Saute mushrooms over high heat. Once brown, remove and reserve.
- To same pan, add red pepper and shallot. Saute over medium heat until just starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and add to mushrooms.
- Add sausage to pan and cook over medium heat, crumbling and browning until cooked through. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
- Wipe out excess grease from pan.
- Lightly drizzle with about 1 tsp olive oil. Add garlic and fresh tomato and cook over medium heat, deglazing pan.
- Add Marsala wine, red pepper flakes, and fennel seed.
- Simmer over low heat, allowing to reduce. After 20 minutes, taste for seasoning and adjust to fast with salt and pepper. Reduce as needed.
- Meaniwhile, cook rigatoni according to package direction to al dente.
- Either leave sauce rustic, or press through fine sieve. Make sure to press as many tomato solids through as possible.
- Return tomato broth to saucepan and heat to simmer. Add pasta, cooked sausage, mushrooms, red pepper and shallot. Pour in 1/4 cup half and half.
- Thoroughly toss mixture over medium heat, allowing rigatoni to absorb sauce.
- Serve with extra basil and Parmesan cheese.