Virginia Woolf once said that one cannot study well, party well or love well if one has not eaten well. Maybe she didn't say it exactly that way, but you get the point. Yet our student years are often the nadir of our gastronomic Bell curve, a time when haste, thrift and general lack of skill lead us to bad choices when our brains and bodies most need sustenance.
A brief survey/trip down memory lane in the Journal offices turned up a list of the usual college cuisine staples: instant ramen, quesadillas and boxed macaroni and cheese (off brand, of course — Velveeta is for the 1 percent). One staff member shared a recipe (well, "recipe" is strong) for canned chili, American cheese singles and hot sauce stolen from Taco Bell that got him through exams.
Another, who spent a semester in New Zealand, shared a late-night, post-revelry snack misleadingly called "Toasties" by the Kiwis. Sounds nice, right? All warm and crispy, maybe cut into little squares? No. It's not. It's prepared by drunkenly slathering white bread with butter, slapping down processed cheese and scooping on canned spaghetti. Then you hide the whole car wreck by topping it with another slice of bread and smashing it in a panini press. It will sizzle, ooze and smell sort of good. And in truth, the messy, wet, black New Zealand sheep of the grilled cheese family is ketchup-y sweet, salty, fatty and requires almost no chewing. All the processing is already done for you. But afterward, while you may not be physically hungry, there is an ineffable emptiness. And shame. Sandwich shame.
Here is something you can whip up with what's likely in your kitchen already. It's cheap, but won't cost your dignity. Adapted from Williams-Sonoma's Pasta Sauces, this one is good enough to serve to guests. Invited guests, not just people who won't leave your couch.
Pasta with Eggs, Pecorino and Black Pepper
Let's be real — pecorino romano cheese is marvelous and worth the cost tenfold, but Parmesan in a shaker is more likely in a student kitchen. It still works. Also, your mom called and she wants you to make a salad.
Ingredients and method:
1 box of short pasta
1/4 cup grated pecorino or a handful (who has measuring cups?) of cheapo powdered cheese
1 splash of milk
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 stick of butter (you're young — live it up while your metabolism holds out)
salt to taste
Beat the eggs and add in the milk, cheese, a pinch of salt, pepper. Boil the pasta according to the package directions, but take it out a minute early. Drain the pasta gently — don't shake off too much water. Melt the butter in a large frying pan on low and toss in the pasta. Pour the egg mix over the pasta, turn the heat up to medium and stir everything until the eggs are cooked but still very moist. Should only be a minute or two. Plate (or bowl or inverted Frisbee) and enjoy on the couch.