How pasta roni—yep—inspired me to cook _ bon appetit

Sometimes you need a break from the craziness of this modern age, which is why we’re celebrating nostalgic foods this week at BonAppetit.com.

I come from a long line of women who didn’t like cooking. Famous restaurants in los angeles Dinner was always made reluctantly and with extreme malice. Best lunch spots in san diego My grandmothers and my mom hated the whole process from start to finish and, by the time the food landed on our plates, it fucking showed.


Popular restaurants in los angeles After a long day at work, my mom “assembled,” rather than cooked, dinner: magically overcooked minute rice, maybe a bagged salad, and some kind of boiled pouch of meat with gravy. Best restaurants in san diego Yeah, it tasted about as good as it sounds.

In protest, I became absurdly focused on food. Best restaurants in downtown san diego I’d ask my mom every morning about her plans for dinner, offering suggestions, comments, and criticisms. Best places to eat in downtown san diego This got old fast. Best places to eat in san diego on a budget After annoying the hell out of my mom in the way that only nine-year-olds can, I decided that I had to take over. Good places to eat in san diego If she wouldn’t listen to my never-ending backseat-cooking, then I’d have to show her what I wanted. Mexican food in san diego I started with my favorite meal and one true love: Pasta Roni. Best seafood restaurants in san diego Specifically, the angel hair pasta with herbs. Best restaurants in chicago il I still kind of salivate just thinking about it.

By the time I was in my teens, I’d probably made hundreds of boxes, but everyone remembers their first. Mexican food in los angeles I began by cautiously boiling the water and milk, adding a dab of butter. Best dinner restaurants in los angeles Then I slowly whisked in the flavor packet (with minimal success, to be honest) and added the noodles. Best inexpensive restaurants in chicago In eight minutes, I was done and mocking my little brother Andy and his beige-on-beige meal with my superior dinner. Best cheap restaurants in chicago Sure, it was a little soupier than I would’ve liked and maybe the noodles could have used an extra minute, but I had cooked it and was hooked.

I started experimenting right away. Best affordable restaurants in chicago A little more milk, a little less water, adding extra pasta from the pantry…I’d try anything to satisfy my increasingly snobby palate. Best lunch spots in new orleans My mom was so happy to have me off her case—and to not have to cook for me—that, as long as I’d make enough for my brother, she’d keep me in Pasta Roni forever. Best food in new orleans Thus began my unbridled lust for my favorite dinner in a box. Best chinese food in chicago I once ate a bowl of it so fast that it got stuck in my throat, making it hard to breath until I drank enough water to wash down the pile of noodles. Best chinese food in chicago chinatown What can I say? I loved Pasta Roni.

One day, after adding some broccoli and patting myself way too hard on the back, I finally came to the realization that had been staring me in the face: I could make way more in a batch if I figured out how to make it from scratch.

Yes, my first attempts at recipe testing were in a quest for never-ending Pasta Roni.

I smelled all the dried herbs in our pantry trying to find the right mix to re-create my beloved angel hair with herbs. Best seafood in wildwood nj After a bunch of really mediocre pots with way too much rosemary or oregano, I finally landed on a blend I liked. Best indian restaurants in chicago This was so satisfying that I wouldn’t stop trying to solicit compliments from my thoroughly uninterested brother; I wouldn’t shut up about how clever I’d been, and how I was a real cook now. Best seafood restaurants in new york city I even started branching out to other kinds of pasta, like a homemade marinara that my friend Jackie’s mom taught me to make. Best cheap eats in chicago I didn’t want to leave my beloved Pasta Roni behind, but I needed new challenges; I had outgrown my training wheels.

Now, three cookbooks and more than a few years later, I’ll still defend these boxed meals and the folks who enjoy them. Best fast food places near me They are easy, affordable, and really do teach people how to cook. Best restaurants near times square Sure, they’re nothing special, but most meals aren’t that fancy. Best seafood in miami beach Just getting dinner on the table is hard work for most people, my mom included, so anything that can make cooking for yourself or your family a little easier shouldn’t be looked down on. Soul food restaurants in new york Frankly, cookbook writers need to do a better job building a bridge between boxed dinners and made-from-scratch meals. Soul food restaurants in newark nj After all, I didn’t go to any cooking schools. How to get free food from restaurants I didn’t learn from my mom or grandmother. Fast food restaurants delivery I learned how to cook from the back of a box of Pasta Roni, and I’m damn proud of that.

Michelle Davis is the co-author with Matt Holloway of Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck, Thug Kitchen Party Grub: For Social Motherf*ckers, and Thug Kitchen 101: Fast as F*ck. Fast food restaurants near my current location This linguine and clams recipe has serious Pasta Roni vibes:

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