The joy of cooking and not burning things

Linguine with sausage and tomatoes — learning to cook as a second-year


Linguini with sausage, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.

Molly Wright | Cavalier Daily

Master Chef Julia Child once said, “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces — just good food from fresh ingredients.” As a college student, however, my meals usually consist of warming up pre-made meals in the microwave or picking up Rev Soup or Roots to eat while I study at the night.

When I was a first year living in the cramped conditions of dorms with just a mini fridge and a Keurig to make oatmeal and Easy Mac, I dreamed of having my own apartment and a kitchen where I could cook myself tasty and healthy meals that did not come from O-Hill. Yet, as a second year with a fully functioning kitchen in my apartment, I have found that I rarely use it, making excuses like, “I don’t have enough time to cook tonight” or “I don’t know any recipes” or “If I try to make that I will definitely burn this apartment down.”

This semester, however, I have vowed to start cooking more, to be more adventurous in my meals and to explore my own cooking abilities past just sautéing spinach and making toast. Maybe I’ll even open the cookbook that my grandparents gave me last Christmas with recipes like broiled lamb and chicken curry. But before getting too ambitious, last weekend, I decided to try cooking one of my favorite recipes that my mother has made for my family for years. I was even inspired to add my own little twist to it, too.

First things first, before I started on my culinary adventure, I wrote a grocery list to make sure I didn’t forget any of the ingredients in the recipe. This attitude is very different from my normal one of just going to the grocery store and buying the same 10 things I always buy plus whatever looks good in the frozen dinner section.

The list consisted of one head of garlic, two pints of cherry tomatoes, jars of dried basil and oregano, a box of linguine, olive oil, fresh mozzarella and a package of Italian sausage. My mother usually makes the pasta without sausage, but I decided that a little protein would go very nicely with the dish and added it to the ingredients. I bought the sausage pre-cooked to make the cooking a little easier on myself because, to be honest, I didn’t trust myself to cook the sausage fully and feared getting sick after accidentally serving myself raw meat.

After buying all of my ingredients at the store, I started prepping my meal. I halved the two pints of cherry tomatoes, chopped up the whole package of sausage into bite size pieces and sliced a clove of garlic into tiny silvers. Next, I heated up two pans on the stove and put a drizzle of olive oil in both. The chopped sausage went in one pan while the cherry tomatoes, garlic and a teaspoon of both the basil and oregano went in the other pan. I let the sausage and the tomatoes sizzle on medium heat for approximately ten to fifteen minutes until the tomatoes looked soft and slightly shriveled and the sausage had browned. While the tomatoes and sausage were cooking, I also quartered the mozzarella balls to make them easier to eat.

As the smell of garlic and spices started to waft through my apartment, I knew the dish was going to be delicious, and I got hungrier by the minute. I then started in on the easiest part of the recipe which is boiling pasta. The linguine boiled on the stove for about nine minutes and voila, the cooking was over! I threw the sautéed tomatoes over the pasta with the sausage and sprinkled the mozzarella on top, making a very colorful and tasty dish. I also had an arugula salad on the side to add some greens and feel somewhat healthy with my pasta dish.

Julia Child was right — cooking does not have to be an all day ordeal to be delicious. My pasta dish took about an hour to make and the sense of accomplishment I had after making it was pretty priceless.

I have to admit that throughout the cooking process, I was a little nervous I would mess something up — accidentally burning the garlic or sausage or having the pasta water boil over the pot. I found, however, that prepping most of the ingredients before I actually started putting things on the stove really helped me and kept me from getting distracted once things started cooking. Making this dish for myself got me excited about the idea of cooking and inspired me to try to do it more. While I wouldn’t call myself a chef just yet, I’m eager to put my kitchen to use this semester and cook more meals. Next on the menu … broiled lamb! (Or maybe not.)

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