21 January 2006

26. Pasta

Dear pasta,

I love you. My housemate Allison doesn't, which is why I haven't been eating you several times a week as was my usual practice for years. But tonight I was home alone, and that meant I could make whatever dinner my greedy little heart desired, and that turned out to be you, oh yes.

I love many things about you, pasta, but one of my favorites is how I can usually whip up a sauce or sauté of some sort to accompany you in the time it takes to boil water and cook you in it, which is to say quickly. Since I'm the kind of person who gets a little freaky when her blood sugar is low, this particular attribute of yours can be a lifesaver, to put it mildly. Tonight I was a little stupid with hunger, which meant I prepared you with an even more haphazard approach than usual, but the results were spectacular nonetheless.

I love how hunger makes everything taste extra-good, but I think the way I cooked and ate you for dinner tonight would be delicious even under less urgent circumstances. I started by putting a small pot of salted water on the stove, enough to cook what I thought was a smallish handful of spaghetti (more about that in a bit). While waiting for the water to come to a boil, I found a frying pan and used it to heat a few tablespoons of olive oil, into which I sliced slightly more than a handful of cremini mushrooms. Next I added a small onion (diced) and several cloves of garlic (crushed). I also had a green bell pepper and some pesto, discovered in the fridge when I first started foraging for dinner, but I decided against these after I had the idea of using sundried tomatoes.

I love the fact that cooking is one of the few things I'm intuitively good at. My original vision for dinner was pasta with mushrooms and onions and peppers and pesto, probably with some feta and maybe asiago cheese as well, but when I lit on the idea of sundried tomatoes, I threw out most of my original plan without looking back and tossed a big handful of sundried tomatoes into the pasta water, which was now almost at a boil. (The sundried tomatoes I get are cut finely enough that I probably could have gotten away with adding them right to the other sautéing vegetables, but I figured softening them up in hot water couldn't hurt, since they do get a little chewy and dry sitting in their jar on the shelf. If they'd been the oil-packed kind I probably would have just cut them into the sauté, but whole sundrieds definitely require cutting up and usually softening with boiling water as well. Then again, I prefer the taste of sundried tomatoes to their texture, and tonight I was cooking explicitly for my own idiosyncratic tastes.)

I love making impulsive decisions that turn out to be awesome. As the sundried tomatoes softened in the boiling water, they gave it a nice little reddish tinge, and when I fished them out with a slotted spoon and transferred them to the sauté, the water they brought with them turned quickly to steam that helped everything cook (a cheap trick but a good one). Since the water was boiling, I added the spaghetti, and then gave the sauté a generous sprinkling of oregano, thyme, salt, and a fresh grind of black pepper. I also added a little more olive oil, since the mushrooms and sundried tomatoes had absorbed most of the original few tablespoons. Then while the pasta was still cooking I diced up a regular-sized Roma tomato and added it to the sauté. Finally, I crumbled in a few tablespoons of feta cheese (less than a quarter-cup) and used all my self control to keep from stirring the mix one last time, because it was fast threatening to turn into mush. Fortunately, the pasta cooked quickly, so I didn't have to be self-controlled for long.

I love how, if you're undercooked, pasta, and then added to a pan with hot sauce, you finish cooking there and absorb the sauce and get extra-flavorful. Tonight's spaghetti already had a headstart on tastiness because it had been cooked in the sundried tomato water, some of which I added to the sauté along with the noodles when I combined the two (another cheap trick; I just didn't drain the pasta completely). Wham, steam, melting cheese, deliciousness, and a very good dinner was had by me. I'd gotten out some asiago cheese, but I ended up just putting it back in the fridge since the melted feta was more than salty and creamy enough for me (though not unpleasantly so, oh no). Of course, it turned out that I'd made too much food, but I might just be a greedy pig and have a dinner and a half tonight.

I love you, pasta. Thank you for being awesome.


Published 21 January 2006, last updated 22 January 2006. Title abridged 1 December 2011.