It’s day 13. The Food Zoo’s gourmet (?) delights are but a distant memory. Your parents’ pantry looks increasingly bare as the entire family stockpiles rations in their closets — you can’t trust anyone these days.

But if there’s two cans of Italian-style diced tomatoes, chopped olives, a box

of noodles and a couple chicken breasts left behind, I’ve got good news for you: you’re just 20 minutes away from culinary paradise.

Our brave new world has piled on the hardships, not the least of which is figuring out what to eat. With most restaurants shut down, our options are limited.

In the spirit of adventure, I busted out mom’s old recipe for the easiest pasta you can imagine — almost no cooking qualifications required.

The cookware list is pretty basic: one medium-sized pot for the noodles, a pan for the chicken, a chef’s knife, a spatula, a strainer and a can-opener.


2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can sliced black olives
8 oz. bowtie pasta
2 chicken breasts, chopped Optional: 1 green pepper, chopped Optional: Italian seasoning, Lawry’s seasoned salt and garlic, to taste

Fill the pot 3⁄4 full with water and bring it to a boil. Feel free to add some olive oil and salt, too — they can make for better noodles.

While your water’s heating up, cut the chicken breasts into about 1-inch cubes. If you have that bell pepper, dice it small and set it aside.

As your noodles cook, place the chicken in the pan and set the burner to high. Cook until no pink remains. Feel free to season with some Lawry’s seasoned salt and a bit of minced garlic at this point.

Just before you think the chicken’s done, add the (optional) green peppers and stir. You’ll want to cook them for just a couple minutes—we don’t want soggy greens.

Add the two cans of diced tomatoes and the chopped olives to the chicken and peppers and stir until well-mixed. Turn the burner down to medium and let the sauce warm. Now’s the time for the Italian seasoning and a bit more garlic, if you have them.

As for the noodles, cook until you try one and it’s just slightly firm. Also, noodle life hack: when you drain them, rinse them with cold water! That will completely
stop the cooking process and prevent mushiness. 

Pour the contents of the pan into the pot with the noodles and mix thoroughly. You may want to keep the mix on warm to allow the now-cold noodles some time to adjust.

And there you have it—as my family calls it, “bowtie chicken pasta.” With just four main ingredients, it’s not going to flavorfully transport that dour food critic from “Ratatouille” to the fond memories of his childhood, but it’s a comfort food that’s kept my spirits high as I ride out the lockdown in my Missoula basement.

Bon appétit!