Before The Microwave: Pasta Edition

Do you remember cooking before the microwave? If you do, good for you! If you don't, then this might cause you to do some thinking. Either way, cooking before the microwave was a little different, especially when it came to handling leftovers. My mom and I had a fun conversation the other night about all the things she did in the kitchen before she got her microwave oven. The conversation was a real hoot and prompted me to do a new weekly series to share stories and recipes that my family made prior to the microwave oven.

Although I was born in 1975, we didn't get our first microwave oven until about 1985. By this time, I was at least ten years old. I remember at first that my Mom didn't want one, but my Grandpa insisted that she would love it. He convinced her that she had to have it. I remember when he went up to Sears and bought it for her. In the 80's, microwave ovens were expensive , and not something my Mom would've bought for herself. I'll never forget the day they installed that strange looking beast. It was huge and loomed over the stove on a shelf. It was like a science experiment or something.

These days, Mom and I love our microwave ovens mostly for reheating leftovers or making popcorn, but back then it took some getting used to. Mom was used to being creative with her leftovers and had very different methods for reheating things. If you think about it, some things just don't reheat well in the oven. How would you reheat leftover pasta, leftover mashed potatoes, leftover vegetables, or leftover rolls? No wonder we had so many casseroles back then! The microwave really was a new concept in the kitchen. In many ways, it reinvented how people cooked.

One of my all-time favorite things to eat back then was pasta. When we had leftover pasta, my Mom would reheat it gently on the stove. I'm not sure if this was her own special way, but to me it is. I'd be very curious to know if some of you have also reheated pasta using this method. If not, you might find it interesting. Either way it is delicious and when I have time, I still use this method. It produces more dirty dishes, (which is another thing the microwave changed), but it is much better than reheating leftover pasta in the microwave.

Mom's Leftover Pasta, Reheated
*leftover plain or buttered pasta, any shape
*pat of butter
*about 3-4 tablespoons of milk

Put a pat of butter in a skillet over low-medium heat. Let butter melt.

Add about 3 - 4 tablespoons of milk (skim, lowfat, whole) to the skillet. The milk should probably be enough to just cover the bottom of the skillet.
Add in the desired amount of leftover pasta. Usually there is only enough room to make 1 or 2 servings.
Gently loosen up the pasta and let reheat in the milk and butter mixture. This takes about 2-3 minutes, or until the milk evaporates. This is a good time to throw in any other leftovers: chopped bacon, parmesan cheese, any leftover veggies, etc. It is a good way to use up any other leftovers hanging out in the fridge. Can you see the potential here.......much better than anything reheated in the microwave!!
The pasta is ready when it is warm all the way through and all the milk is evaporated.
Pile on a plate and enjoy. The pasta should have a sheen to it. The butter and milk almost make a delicate sauce that keeps the pasta hydrated. Although your pasta will not techically be "al dente", it will be much better than if it was reheated in the microwave.

Have you ever reheated your pasta this way? If not, do you have another method?

What do you remember that was different about cooking before the microwave? What did you cook on the stovetop or oven that you now cook solely in the microwave? Did you have any special method for reheating leftovers? Any special recipes you created to use up leftovers? If so, please share. It's kinda funny to go back and think about cooking without the microwave. I'm looking forward to some funny and creative stories and ideas.

Next week's edition is all about leftover mashed potatoes (before the microwave, of course)!!