At 19 years old, amidst several personal challenges and a host of academic failures, I dropped out of college. At 20, I went through the undergraduate admissions process for the second time. I was floored when I was accepted to CUNY— Hunter College with my old school’s academic transcript that features a collection of withdrawals, a few F’s, and a dismal GPA of 2-something. So when I had to scramble to figure out how I would get to and from a Manhattan-based commuter school, I moved in with my nana.
Nana’s house was a landing platform for women in our family. A previously unmarried aunt had lived the beginning of her adult life there, only moving out in her late thirties after getting engaged. An older cousin lived there, as she commuted to her full-time job as an elementary school teacher and went to her MA program in the evenings. Nana was still working full-time, going to her knitting group once a week, and crafting in the evenings and weekends. With the aunt gone, a room in the attic opened up so I moved in. I lived at Nana’s for about four years. The first three years— I commuted a daily three hours to go to and from school until I graduated college. The fourth year, I commuted a total of four hours daily to get to and from my job in literacy. The sense of duress in this stage of my life while I confronted the trauma and violation of my previous undergraduate experience, a neurotic need to have a perfect GPA, an exhausting commute, a host of part-time jobs and internships, the loss of my health insurance, and a bundle of emergent auto-immune issues was contrasted with the warm and often ridiculous domestic drama of our three generation household of women. Here enters one of my favorite Nana-meals, pasta with the egg. Pasta with the egg is a peculiar dish, not exactly a soup, and perhaps too wet to be a pasta dish— it’s effusive call could be heard on cold November nights when I would walk home from the bus stop having left the house before dawn and coming home after dark. It is a meal for the days when you’re in such a funk you are ready to risk potential death by high cholesterol and heart disease. Its salty, buttery warmth and comforting noodles are there to give your insides a hug and say “take a pause and cherish this feeling now.” It’s special because its four ingredients are household staples. It’s enduring because you can’t mess it up— too salty? Add more water. Too mushy? That’s it’s most attractive quality. Too much pasta? Add more butter. It’s the kind of fortifying dish that can give someone the push to get up at 4am the next day to get on a bus, then a subway, to get to an 8am science lab, to go from the science lab to a job, to go from the job to the library, and to have the will to keep on, knowing you will get home and be as warm and cozy again as the pasta with the egg you’ve had the night before. As Nana says, “Delish!”
- 1 Box of Ditalini Pasta (Nana prefer’s Ronzoni; sub Brad’s Organic Gluten Free Ditalini or another brand of your choice if necessary)
- Salt (Nana swears by non-iodized Red Cross)
- Parmesan Cheese or Romano Cheese
- Eggs (depending on how many you’re serving)
- Boil pasta
- When it is cooked al dente, dump some of the water out so it sits at no higher than the cooked pasta
- Crack eggs directly into the pot
- Use your fork to mix the eggs so they scramble and cook in the boiled water. Note: If you have too much water empty some out
- When the eggs are cooked, serve in a bowl with butter and grated cheese to taste!
Note: This is an interpretation of stracciatella soup which often is made with chicken broth and includes spinach and other greens (which Nana hates). You are welcome to try this lovely low maintenance version, but if you feel wanting, go ahead and google “stracciatella soup” and try one of those versions. It is meant to be improvised and enjoyed!