Escape the day's chaos with a bowl of penne pasta

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By: Rachel Shenk

Rachel Shenk/La Bonne Vie

It is hot and humid and the downpour that just happened only adds fuel to the fire. At the park, wild flowers and plants seem to be doing one final growth spurt before summer ends.

We run through narrow paths where vines and grasses are taking over, just waiting to close in on the unexpected. The news around me also threatens to take over. Is there any reprieve from violence and illness? It has been a full week and a busy day. I’m looking forward to my regular rendezvous at Giving Tree Massage.

In that time and space, I back off from the world and retreat from the fast-paced, filled hours. I disconnect from the bad news. I allow my body to decompress and let go of its aches and pains. And today as I leave, the humidity has lifted — as has my mood.

When I was in my early teens, my doctor recommended I go to a physiotherapist to help me strengthen and lengthen my back — I grew so tall so fast that my spine had not fully adjusted. Once a week after school, the school bus would drop me off by the Catholic church and I would walk down the hill, take a right and go to the house with the big golden plaque by its door. I’d go up the stairs and push open the door and walk into a cool and sunlit hallway and wait for Madame Rombaud to call for me.

I would then enter a warm room where she would proceed to stretch my shoulders, back and neck. I would do exercises and breathing to help open my lungs. The appointment would end with a massage, a slap of cologne and then fifteen minutes of laying on my back, knees bent, eyes closed in the dimmed room.

Those 15 minutes were a gift to me. I would lay there and let my mind wander or not think at all but just listen to myself breathing. I would let go of school, friends, family and spend those 15 minutes on myself alone.

It was always a time when life seemed to become more focused. And I was always surprised at how soon Madame would be back, turning the door knob and saying, “We are done for today. See you next week! Au revoir!” I left refreshed and renewed.

These days, as summer slowly turns to fall and the world out there continues to bring us joy as well as sorrow, ease as well as hardship, I am thankful for those precious minutes I can spend in my own space, letting go of the outside noise. And, as a bonus, the aches and pains dissolve, also!

Sometimes when I am cooking in the kitchen, I also enter that space. It is my own place, where as I cook and bake, my thoughts take off on their own wings and take me along for the ride. I hope you find those fifteen minutes of quiet and letting go.

Here is a recipe that uses tomatoes, onions and basil, all available at this time of year at the farmers market, if not in your own or a friend’s garden. It makes a tasty supper. 

Penne with roasted tomatoes, orange and olives

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. homegrown tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, halved and cut into thin wedges
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. orange peel, grated
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ lb. penne
  • ½ cup fresh basil, slivered
  • ¼ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
  • Pecorino Romano cheese for garnish

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Take two baking sheets lined with parchment paper and spread tomatoes on one, onions on the other. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic and orange peel. Sprinkle on salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Roast until vegetables are tender and starting to brown around the edges, stirring regularly, about 30 to 45 minutes. The onions might take a little less time. Scrape both pans into a bowl and pour the orange juice over the veggies.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta al dente. Reserve ½ cup of pasta cooking water. Drain pasta. Return to cooking pot. Add the tomato and onion mixture, basil and olives to pasta. Stir over medium heat until heated through, adding enough reserved water to moisten. Serve and top with Pecorino Romano.
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