I love food, as we know. But if I had to name one just one dish that equated love to me? It would not, shockingly, be barbecue. Barbecue might be termed "heart," or certainly, "home," but not "love." Love, to me, is pasta. It always has been, and I imagine it always will be.
I have loads of pasta recipes. I have the pasta equivalent of a marriage proposal, of putting all your cards on the table: a three-page lasagna recipe that uses a different scrumptious sauce for each layer. It takes all day to make, and it will get any romantic job done. I have the sexy date at home dish: a red-hot vodka sauce that sears and soothes in equal measure. I have the first dish I ever made that snapped T's head around and left him begging for more: an earthy, spicy sauceless pasta with sausage, spinach, and crunchy breadcrumbs.
What I also have, though, are simple, steadfast dishes that please year in, year out, day after day, no matter the company. They're not special occasion dishes. They're everyday dishes that aren't made to impress, but to nourish and to share and to quietly delight instead. They're simple love, these dishes... which is so often the best kind.
Here, then, are two of my favorite everyday pasta dishes, and I'm finally including the recipes here, because, well... that's what one's supposed to do with love. Spread it.
SUMMER ORZO SALAD
Tangy, light, and cooling... made for warm-weather potlucks and leftover lunches.
- 1 pound orzo
- 1 container cherry tomatoes
- 1 6-oz package crumbled feta
- 1/2 cup minced fresh basil (or other herb)
- 1/2-1 cup champagne vinaigrette
Bring salted water to boil in large heavy saucepan. Add orzo and boil until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Transfer to large wide bowl, tossing frequently until cool. Mix tomatoes, feta, and herbs into orzo. Add vinaigrette; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature.
- 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 cup olive oil
Adapted from Ruth Reichl ... and as tailor-made for man-friendly (and kid, I'm sure!) weeknight salvation as she advertises. I love eating leftovers cold for lunch.
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 1/4 to 1/2 pound good bacon
- 2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
- 3 large eggs
- Black pepper
- 1/2 cup grated Parm (plus more for the table)
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook spaghetti. While the spaghetti is cooking, cut the bacon crosswise into small pieces. Put them in a skillet and cook for 2 minutes, until fat begins to render. Add the whole cloves of garlic and cook another 5 minutes, until the edges of the bacon begin to get crisp. Don't overcook, because if there's too much crispiness the bacon won't meld with the pasta.
- Meanwhile, break the eggs into the bowl you will serve the pasta in and beat with a fork. Grind in some fresh pepper.
- Remove the garlic from the bacon pan. If it looks like too much fat to you, discard some, but be judicious - you want to toss the bacon with most of its fat into the pasta. If this bothers you, this isn't the right dish for you.
- Drain the cooked pasta and immediately put it into the beaten eggs. Mix thoroughly. The heat of the spaghetti will cook the eggs and turn them into a sauce. Add the bacon with its fat, toss again, add cheese, and serve.