I do not hail from a family known for our exquisite cooking. Meals growing up were just fine. My mom made the basics. Spaghetti, chicken and rice, macaroni and cheese, iceberg lettuce salads and canned veggies, meatloaf: nothing amazing or horrible. But I don't think my mom got a lot of pleasure out of cooking. More like a duty that was occasionally fun. She made cream puffs from scratch for parties and I remember the warm fluffy pastry filled with the cool creamy pudding and drizzles of rich chocolate sauce. I remember thinking it was miraculous that she could create something that delicous out of such simple things like flour and sugar. She liked making those and you could taste it.
While cooking wasn't something she loved herself, she did encourage me to learn to cook. I remember making my first meal at age 7 or so out of my very own kids cookbook. It was a version of meatloaf baked with mashed potatoes and cheese over the top, a modified Shepherd's pie, corn and cream cheese filled chocolate cupcakes for dessert. A full meal and I remember feeling so proud of myself. And grateful to my mom for helping me and encouraging me and joyfully eating what was probably a pretty foul meal. We don't really have that many family recipes. But I want them. I want to pass down my love of cooking to my kids someday and this recipe is just the kind of recipe that meets that comfort level that you expect from family recipes. I'm a mix of German, French and other random European cultures, but if I had to choose I would want to be Italian, just for the food alone. And this Pioneer Woman Italian Chicken Noodle Soup recipe, while entirely American, pulls together that creamy oregano and tomato base that makes my mouth and belly happy. I'd like to think my grandmother and mother would like it too.
It was time consuming but delicious, and spending last Saturday morning making it on that rainy bleak day, was a perfect way to dive into this multi step multi pot and pan recipe and imagine tweaking it and changing it to suit my tastes. Making it over and over each year until it becomes a classic, a soothing dish served with crusty bread and sage motherly advice. I think I'll invite my mom over next time to join me. It's certainly better than that mashed potato covered meatloaf.