WRITTEN ON May 19th, 2010 BY Meredith AND STORED IN Chicken, Leftovers, Spinach, Tomatoes

My senior year of college, I lived with three of my best friends in a house just off campus, on South Sixth Street (206, to be exact) in Lewisburg, PA.  Many of the off campus houses at Bucknell were named, so people rarely knew the addresses, but if you said “Red Brick is having kegs tonight,” everyone would know where to go.  Our house was affectionately named Headquarters. Strangely, I continue to love that.

On the nights when we weren’t out (for me, few and far between) we’d often sit around our tiny kitchen table for family dinners, though we’d all be eating different things.  My friend Ann would be enjoying SpaghettiO’s from a can, which she may or may not have heated up in the microwave.  Nicole would be eating some sort of rabbit food, usually a disgusting concoction of cottage cheese, dried fruit and slivered almonds.  I’d be having roast salmon with balsamic glaze and sun-dried tomatoes with goat cheese on toast.  And Maura?  Well.  Maura would usually have something utterly bizarre, which she would pick through with her fork, make a mess of, and then leave in the sink.  She went through a spaghetti squash phase, where for weeks she ate steamed spaghetti squash with tomato sauce. Our back porch looked like a scene from the first Thanksgiving, with squash piled high up the walls, like firewood.  When we were lower classmen eating in the cafeteria, she’s make a massive plate of stir fry or salad, most of it ending up on the tray.  Even if she made it for herself she usually ended up turning up her nose at it, as if she decided halfway through that she didn’t like it but felt obligated to have a few bites so as not to hurt the food’s feelings.

One of my favorite memories of Maura is the day we decided, senior year, that we were going to make a butternut squash, apple and horseradish soup from a recipe we’d found in Martha Stewart Living.  Maura and I were always bumbling around just a bit, always easily distracted, always laughing and giggling and acting just a bit younger than our actual ages. Which is exactly what happened on the day we made this soup from scratch. It took hours. It was a chilly fall day in Central PA, and we couldn’t wait to taste it. I will never forget her face when we lifted the spoons to our mouths. If was as is someone forced her to eat a spoonful of urine. Seriously, it was a complete disaster. But we didn’t give up! We kept at it and somehow coaxed an edible soup out of a pot full of terrifying.

Over the years, Maura and I have talked less often.  Life gets in the way, as it does with many close relationships.  It doesn’t mean I don’t think of her all the time. And when we do talk, or better yet, get together, we slip right back into our old roomie roles, namely the two slobs who are just a little disorganized but having the time of our lives. One thing is for sure.  If you see Maura and me walking down the street together, get ready for trouble with a capital “T”.  Don’t worry, it’s the good kind of trouble. The kind you might not remember in the morning but will laugh about for years and years anyway.

Maura graduates today with her Masters in Clinical Mental Health and School Adjustment.  Quite a mouthful, right?  I am so proud of my friend. School Adjustment? Does that mean that after all these years we, ourselves, might actually be adjusted?

I was making dinner for one last night and decided to just use whatever was in the fridge and pantry.  I came up with this pasta.  I even had to use a couple different kinds of noodles because I was so short on supplies. It’s basically an everything but the kitchen sink kind of thing, and while I was standing over the stove, for some reason all I could think of was butternut squash and apple soup, massive plates of stir fry, and Maura. Why on earth did this made up recipe remind me of her? The only thing I came up with was this: this pasta was surprising, unpredictable, and, like Maura, ultimately quite the dish.

Everything but the...

Leftovers Pasta
1/4 lb pasta (anything you have, but I like penne, rigatoni or cavatappi)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 cup low sodium chicken stock
1/4 cup freshly grated parm
1 cup pulled chicken (I had leftover bbq chicken, but this would work with rotisserie, or roast chicken, or left over chicken breasts)
3 large handfuls baby spinach
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 handful fresh basil, torn
Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Make sure to salt the water well. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter.  Whisk in flour to make a roux, cook about 1 minute, whisking.  Add chicken stock, whisking continuously to eliminate lumps. Bring to a boil, then down to a simmer to thicken.  Add the pulled chicken, spinach and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper. When sauce is hot and coats the back of a spoon, add cheese and basil.  Toss in pasta, heat through and serve immediately.

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