A lunch of quark and carbonara

Easy lunch box ideas for kids: leftover pasta carbonara; hummus and pretzels; blueberries; and whole-wheat tortillas smeared with quark cheese and strawberry jam

After being snowed in for much of the weekend, we finally ventured out yesterday afternoon to a musical — yes, musical — about the Civil War.

It actually was fun, though at times odd. And the performance, at Dartmouth College, was aimed at kids. Kind of wish they’d gone a bit more into some of the motivations of the war, but still was a good way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Plus, Parker decided he wanted to go to Dartmouth for college. Which would keep him close to home, and that would make the whole growing up thing a little easier.

By the time we got home from the show, I didn’t have a ton of time for dinner. Plus, Parker was exhausted. So pasta carbonara was an easy choice. As simple dinners go, it’s hard to beat this three- or four-ingredient winner.

All I do is cook whole-wheat pasta in one pot. In a deep saute pan next to it, I brown some chopped bacon (be sure to drain off the fat). When the pasta is done, I don’t even drain it. I just use tongs to pull it out of the water and dump in into the pan with the bacon.

And that part is key. The water that clings to the pasta when you do it is full of starch, and that starchy water helps form the sauce. Then I use the tongs to start tossing the pasta and bacon and sprinkle in as much grated Parmesan as you can handle. Done.

If you want to get fancy, you could toss in chopped scallions or parsley, too. And traditional versions also call for mixing in an egg (yes, raw — the heat of the pasta “cooks” it). I usually do this, but last night I forgot. It still was tasty (though admittedly the sauce is better with the egg).

So those leftovers made a fine start to today’s lunch. To round it out, I added pretzels and hummus, some blueberries and a cheesy treat. I’d picked up some quark made by a local farmer. Quark is a rustic soft cheese, kind of a cross between cottage cheese and ricotta. Delicious and rich.

To make the quark into a treat, I spread some of it on whole-wheat tortillas, then topped each with a dollop of strawberry jam and rolled them up. It’s like a bite of cheesecake.

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3 Responses to “A lunch of quark and carbonara”

  1. AWirsch says:

    I love the easy pasta idea… nothing beats cheese and pasta!

  2. Ursula Larrabee says:

    Where can I get some “quark” here in the US? I have never seen it. I grew up in Germany with quark and love it.

    • J.M Hirsch says:

      Hmm… Good question. I bet Whole Foods has some. I bought mine at the farmers market, so you might check your local one.