Annie had made the sauce a hundred times. But this time was different. Cursing and stirring the batch had rendered no improvement: the sauce was still muddled and bland; perhaps the cream had curdled?
Determining she had enough ingredients to try again, Annie dumped the first batch into the trash and took a deep breath. Exactly where had she gone wrong? For years, she had made spaghetti sauce the easy way: open a ready-made jar and heat up in the microwave; her Aunt Judy had been the one to teach her the finer details of sauce-making. Go slowly, she had advised all those years ago, swatting good-naturedly at Annie’s hand when Annie had haphazardly tossed in cream, salt, garlic. Half the battle would be won with patience. Instead of rushing through the steps, Annie tried to take her time, but it was a difficult task. Just what she needed, to mess up again. Knowing the recipe by heart made her want to hurry, especially with the kids coming home from school soon, but she reined herself in: the last thing she needed was another ruined batch.
Lemon juice went into the half-and-half, then garlic powder. Making sure the sauce didn’t burn, Annie stirred the requisite one minute before turning her attention to the penne pasta that had been on the boil for nine. Nothing like Aunt Judy’s recipe, she thought, straining the pasta; only a few steps remained. One: add the parmesan cheese, stirring until the flakes melted. Plate the pasta, then pour the sauce on top. Quick taste. Roughly chop the parsley and add. Salt. Taste, one more time. Usually the sauce needed a bit more salt, but this time Annie seemed to have gotten it right.
Victory; Aunt Judy would have been proud. With a glance at the clock, Annie closed the recipe book. Expecting the kids any time, she moved on to the last step. Yum. Zested lemon curls floated from her grater and landed perfectly on top of the pasta just as the kids, home from school, piled through the door.