Tomato and Basil Pasta and…The Break-Up

I always said that when it happens, I would like to be on the other side of the world.

But I wasn’t.  I wasn’t even around the corner.  I was here with Arabella as her world fell apart.  It’s over with the boyfriend, the one who’s been visiting us since she was 11.  Now there was certainly no romance back in those days, in fact the dating only really began when she was 14 (but lasted a number of days) and then I think there were a few more days of romance when she was 15.  By the time she was 16 they weren’t speaking but when she was 17 it was, ‘I’m going to marry him, mum’.

Tomato and Basil Pasta with Crispy Pancetta

The events that took place to change ‘we’re not speaking’ to ‘I’m going to marry him’ were caused by me when I innocently decided the family needed to get away from Sydney’s longest and coldest and wettest winter and booked a holiday to Far North Queensland where it was the dry season and the temperatures rarely fall below 28C (83F).

Except that what we discovered when we arrived was that Far North Queensland was experiencing it’s coldest ever winter and despite it being the dry season it poured with rain every day of our holiday.  One day there was a rare break in the downpour so we rushed out of our apartment and headed to the resort’s pool area.  I was quite happy to recline on a pool lounge and not talk to anyone but Carl being Carl, struck up a conversation with the couple next to us who were holidaying with their three young daughters.

Stranger than fiction it turned out that the woman lying on the pool lounge next to Carl was Sophie, a woman who had grown up on the neighbouring property to the boyfriend’s property and not only was she their neighbour, she used to babysit the boyfriend and his younger brother.  She still lives in Gunnadah because a decade or so ago the boyfriend’s parents introduced her to a local man who became her husband.

When Arabella became aware of the connection she took a photo of us with Sophie and her husband and emailed it to the boyfriend she wasn’t speaking to.  He, of course, couldn’t believe we were poolside lying next to family friends and so the lines of communication were once again opened and the day after we arrived home from our cold and soggy tropical retreat, Arabella was on the train for the seven-hour journey to the property in Gunnadah.

She came home from her country sojourn announcing he was the love of her life and that she was going to marry him.

Fast-forward 10 months and it’s splits-ville.

Arabella, suffering from grief and despair consoled herself in a truly therapeutic way – she got herself another piercing.

One afternoon she rang me and said, ‘Something happened today, mum’.

‘What happened?’

‘I got another piercing’.

‘That had better not be on your face’.

‘Well it is, mum.’

‘Did you get your nose pierced?’

‘Yes I did, mum’.

So she arrived home with a red and swollen nostril containing a piece of shiny metal and told me it was sore.  I said, ‘Arabella, I thought we were done with the piercing phase.  Didn’t you get that out of your system when you were 14?’

‘It had to be done, mum’.

‘No, it didn’t actually.’

When Arabella was 14 she went to one of those ‘tolerant’ schools.  That did her no good whatsoever.  We ripped her out of there and put her into the School for Princesses.  No tolerance shown there!  The piercings were all removed except for the ones they couldn’t see and one set of studs in her ears.

Last week she walked to the princess school with the metal in her nose.  When she arrived home I asked, ‘Did you see the Deputy principal?’  (Who is also her mentor).


‘Well did she see your piercing?’


‘Well what did she say?’

‘She said it looks hideous.’

‘Well did you tell her I agree?’

‘She already knows that mum’.

But somehow, because she has but a few days left at the school before her final exams, the school is choosing to overlook this extra bit of metal.  Pity.

So the piercing is still there and that’s how you recover from a broken heart.

Did you do anything ridiculous after a break-up?

Piercings or no piercings, I still love my daughter and this is her all-time favourite meal.  She likes it because she calls it a vegetarian pasta and just overlooks the fact it has nice, crunchy, crispy slices of pancetta.

Tomato and Basil Pasta with Crispy Pancetta

Serves:  4

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  This is dinner for a family for just a few dollars.

  • 1 tbspn olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 glass red wine
  • 800g tinned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of basil, leaves only
  • 12 slices pancetta
  • 400g spaghetti
  • parmesan cheese, shaved
  • seasoning

Pre-heat oven to 200C.

In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, heat olive oil.  Add onion and cook until translucent (about 3 mins).  Add garlic and cook gently being careful not to let it burn.  Add chilli flakes then add red wine and allow to bubble.  Add tinned tomatoes and basil leaves.  Season then simmer for around 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, place pancetta on an oven tray covered with baking paper.  Place in the oven and cook for around 10 mins or until crispy.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to directions on the packet.  Drain.

Place pasta on serving plates, top with tomato and basil sauce, add pancetta and top with shavings of parmesan cheese.

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  1. Magnolia Verandah says:

    Oh dear! young love eh! I think I could live without the piercing too. At least it was a tattoo.  At least a piercing can be removed. 
    Nice comfort food.

  2. Oh no, the poor girl…young love indeed! A good bowl of pasta followed by a tub of icecream, maybe accompanied by some wine always fixes everything! Am saving this recipe to my favourites to try out soon 🙂

  3. Amy (Savory Moments) says:

    Ah, young love…. Your pasta dish looks very tasty. Pasta is always good when you need some comfort! 

  4. hmmm.. Yeah, when I was 16 I thought it was a great idea to have 3 piercing on each side of my ear. one of them got infected and I had it removed. Just 2 years later, I thought they looked so ridiculous I decided to let them close. So sometimes it could just be a phase! But yeah, breakups were a huge deal back then, especially when they’ve already been classified as “the one”. It’s great that she has a good support system back home! 🙂

  5. Niasunset says:

    What a nice recipe… I always take notes about your recipes… but when I cook I don’t know. 🙂 I loved it. Thank you dear Charlie, it was nice reading too. Love, nia

  6. Oh, I do feel for Arabella.  Is this the boyfriend who would have been accompanying her to the formal?

  7. It just hurts your heart, doesn’t it, to see your daughter hurting so. Given the length of their on-again, off-again relationship, this must be especially painful for Arabella. But what can you do except love her and listen to her.

  8. Pancetta is spaghetti sauce is always a winner. Many thanks … meanwhile, the story reminded me of this song.

  9. The story made me sad 🙁 The food made me hungry. I am confused. What a hard thing for anyone to go through

  10. Aww, poor Arabella. We all go through this at one time or another in our young lives. I bet this beautiful pasta dish comforted her well, though.

  11. Oh dear – I got a vegetarian meal like that once in a cafe – was very embarrassed when my lentil burger was groaning under a ton of bacon!  But pasta is great comfort food – and in my opinion good food is far better comfort than the pain of piercing – but holes can grow over – I know because a friend of mine had a nose piercing and had a lump by it and was told it could be cancerous so he just took out the piercing and gave it up – there is hope!

  12. Well I hope she feels much better by now.. She’ll get over it, I dont remember what I was doing when I was in a situation like that, I was always loosing some weight and look gorgeous hehe 🙂
    I cant ignore the fact that you were so lucky 🙂 once again with the rain, I remember the camping story, it’s lousy to go on vacation and it rains all day..
    I love the pasta, and I;m going to make it this week, I can almost smell the basil and taste the crunchy pancetta.. Yum!
    Have a nice day Charlie!

  13. Hmm…ridiculous after a break-up. I know I was playing with fire by dating one of my ex-boyfriend’s good friends right after our break-up. That was just out of control.

  14. Poor Arabella.  Breaking up is always hard, no matter the age, the circumstances.  But I believe in comfort food–and this looks comforting.

  15. I have done so many stupid things after breakups … lucky you can’t see them 🙂

  16. Amanda robson says:

    Great looking dish

  17. Choc Chip Uru says:

    I hope Arabella feels better soon! I have never actually dated so I cannot say I understand but I do sympathise – she needs a comforting hug and comfort food which I know you are providing my friend 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

  18. Oh dear, so she did get the piercing after all..brave girl, I’ve heard those nose ones hurt!  I hope her broken heart heals soon – she’s a lucky girl to have you to look after her, Charlie! xx

  19. I love, love, love, your stories! Poor Arabella…I suppose if a piercing was all she needed to get over him then… 😉

    Your pasta looks fabulous!

  20. Hi,
    It is not easy going through you first big breakup, piercing is a different way of dealing with it, but at least it is something that can be reversed.

    What a shame the weather was bad when you went for your holiday, and so uncanny that you just happen have run into those people, it really is a small world.

    I love your pasta dish, perfect now that the weather is getting cooler.

  21. Barbara at winos and foodies says:

    I still remember when my son came home with a tongue piercing. It’s gone now. I don’t mind the nose piercing. Especially when it’s a little diamond stud.

  22. I rather eat pasta than get a piercing…wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of suffering pain! But young love…aaaah. To be that young again. Pasta looks great, I would have to omit the pancetta.

  23. InTolerant Chef says:

    Oh dear, poor thing! I have told my girls they can do anything they want to their hair, have 2 ear piercings and a nose stud, but that’s it until they move out of home. So far so good.
    I love the loose interpretation of vegetarian. Thats certainly my style of vegetarian food as well!

  24. Rachel - Executive Beader says:

    Yum, yum, yum. Pancetta is something I have only recently begun to use. This looks like something I must try. Thankfully I only made a short term idiot of myself after breakups. My tattoos and such were never related to a boy. 

  25. ChgoJohn says:

    Any young woman who calls pasta with pancetta a “vegetarian” dish will have no problem finding a good man. Rest assured.

    This pasta sounds delcious, Charlie.

  26. Ah, poor Arabella.  It’s too bad that we all have to go through these things.  And everything matters so much at that age.  Luckily, she’ll bounce right back I imagine and have a new boyfriend in no time.

  27. Juliana says:

    Oh!  Poor Arabella…somehow we all have to go through this in one or another time in our lifes…
    The pasta looks delicious, pancetta and lots of tomatoes.
    Have a great week Charlie 🙂

  28. Oh poor Arabella – not what she (or you!) needed just before exams I imagine. I had to smile at the conversation about the piercing though. I remember my parents going through similar things with my sister (I seemed to skip the piercing stage).

    Great pasta too 🙂

  29. Justasmidgen says:

    Nothing ridiculous.. but lost quite a bit of weight.. (and I have a nose piercing:) It would break my heart to see my daughter’s heart broken.. It’s tough going through all of this again, even if it’s vicariously!

  30. The dish looks delicious, I’ve never had a bad break-up but that’s mostly because I started dating my boyfriend when I was 16 and we’re still together so before 16 you can imagine what kind of break-ups I had!! hahaha

  31. I hope Arabella recovers soon..
    Unfortunately we all have to go through big break ups few (if not more) times.. and you grow and get stronger from it. 
    It would break my heart to see my little Leila go through something like that though!!

  32. Awww… poor girl.  But she’s lucky to have a tolerant mum like you who cooks her favourite meals for her.  I was 17 when I started dating my husband and we’re still together… so I missed the “piercing to get over a boy” phase.  Haven’t missed the “cure all ailments with pasta” phase though!

  33. Mandy - The Complete Cook Book says:

    Oh my – poor Arabella and you!  All I ever did was cry my heart out when a boy broke my heart.  Clearly I am very old fashioned!
    🙂 Mandy

  34. Oh I am not looking forward to the break-up stage of life with the kids. A piercing huh? I didn’t go that route. I usually started running again. That said, I did go for the tummy piercing long ago…ouch. 🙂

  35. Deeps NaughtyCurry says:

    reading this reminded me of my college mate who wud get either a tattoo or a piercing everytime her relationship ended. she said she needed something to keep her mind off it and help her heal! anyways the pasta looks awesome… love the way u have plated it with the twirl and all 🙂

  36. What a shame about the piercing; sadly she will regret it when she’s looking for a job after graduating university.
    I can see why she loves this dish, the flavours are exceptional!

  37. Debrafetterly says:

    I have survived the breakups of my children, including one that nearly devastated me! It’s hard to watch, I think! My own youthful breakups didn’t affect me nearly as much as watching my children with broken hearts. My son does the breaking, and I’ve told him I was a woman long before I was his mother and he can’t keep asking me to love his girlfriends, and then leave them! I get too attached. And I hurt with the young women! The piercings are a phenomenon my children missed out on…they were in the “skin art” generation–pre-piercings! I hope dear Arabella’s heart heals quickly! Debra.

  38. Oh poor girl 🙁 I remember break ups…they’re really no fun…and unlike Arabella…my parents were never there to support me and hahaha i guess i never told them either which doesn’t help…but my sister was always there and thinking back….it must’ve been pretty tough for her 🙁
    But then and again I’m glad I had a few break ups in High School because it really toughened me up which is good ~ really hope Arabella feels better soon!
    And I didn’t really go through a piercing phase but when I did go through a rough patch with a guy I just ‘BINGE’ lol like CRAZY hahhaha oh what…i still eat desserts like crazy lol

  39. In truth, I hate that I’ve never yet got to experience a break-up like this, because it also means I haven’t had a long enough relationship to lead to it. Sure, I’ve had one little romance-bubble that led to me crying in the shower and understanding why people write country songs after, but it wasn’t a true break up. I envy Arabella for feeling that much, that deeply, as young as she is.


    • hotlyspiced says:

      She was actually much better when she was going out with him. She was focused more on her HSC and we didn’t have the problem of having to beat off all the other single males. Now her FB status is ‘single’ she’s being asked out for coffee, asked out to parties, asked to be someone’s date at a Formal, etc, etc. Too many distractions! I’m sure your Mr Darcy is just around the corner! xx

  40. I can’t understand the whole piercing thing… it literally seems like a majority of all the women in the world have had holes punched in them at some point or another for the purposes of hanging things off them. It just seems so darn painful … :s

  41. Thats a simple yet good looking pasta! Love the crispy pancetta on top

  42. Oooh, poor daughter! Breaking up is never easy. But in time, whe will find  & really cool & lovely guy! You will see!
    tThis tasty bowl of pasta looks incrdibly tasty & lovely too! You spoil her good! 🙂

  43. Gretchen says:

    I am not looking forward to the teenager years.  My son is almost 13…I’m glad I’ll have people like you to let me know I’m not alone!

  44. Poor Arabella … you’re a great mother to your trio. I try to be a good aunt though I know it’s not the same thing. 🙂

    I love the pancetta and shavings of parmesan cheese in the picture. I buy pre-ground bags of parmesan from my cheese monger (hangs head in shame) as I’m afraid a wedge would go bad in my butter compartment in the fridge but every once in a while, I’m tempted.


  1. […] how Arabella had to go out and get another piercing to aid in her recovery from a broken heart?  And she rang me and said, ‘Mum, I’ve got some news?’  And I said, ‘Did […]

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