Fiery Spaghetti with Plenty of Garlic, Fresh Herbs, and Parmesan

Spaghetti with Fresh Herbs, Chilies, Parmesan, and Black Pepper on a vivid red background.

This recipe has many, many variations but the basic idea is always the same: heaps of fiery chilies, bright greenery, enough garlic to offend anyone within close range, and some sort of satisfying umami element to bring it all together. You could go ahead and use any type of pasta you prefer, but there’s something very satisfying about eating a big bowl of perfectly toothsome al dente spaghetti that I find essential to this loosely crafted recipe. If I’m using sub-par garlic, which tends to be often, I use between 5-7 cloves to really drive the point home. If you’re lucky to have wonderfully pungent cloves then feel free to scale back (or not). I have fresh basil and parsley kicking around more often than other greenery, but I’ve also had immense luck with arugula, dill, and even baby spinach. What you’re looking for is a big happy juxtaposition of elements, the greens need to be capable of standing up for themselves and shining through layers of other robust flavours. The cheese is the umami hit that’s so essential when bringing all these flavours together, I tend to have a big chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano hanging out in the fridge so I use it as my default ingredient but anything aged and flavourful will work wonderfully (may I humbly suggest Pecorino Romano, aged Manchego, Piave Vecchio, Asiago, Crotenese, or even a really aged goat’s milk gouda).

fiery spaghetti with plenty of garlic, fresh herbs, and parmesan:

Enough spaghetti for 1-2 people

Olive oil

5-7 cloves of garlic, finely minced (if you have super strong garlic use less, or not!)

A big handful of flavourful greens and fresh herbs (parsley and basil are my personal favourite)

Copious amounts of freshly cracked pepper

Dried chili flakes

Parmesan cheese, grated (or other aged cheese)

Kosher salt to taste

  1. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions, before draining reserve about half of a cup of the pasta water.
  2. In the same pot that the pasta was cooked in heat up the olive oil over medium heat.
  3. Sauté the minced garlic until fragrant and then add the fresh greens and dried chili peppers.
  4. Toss the spaghetti and pasta water with the garlic, dried chili peppers, and greens. Take off the heat and add the freshly cracked pepper, parmesan cheese, and kosher salt to taste.
  5. Serve in large bowls with extra cheese and greens sprinkled on top. Eat large amounts while still piping hot, relax and reflect on how happy and nourished you feel.

I have to admit, there’s something about The War on Drugs that reminds me of early childhood, being in the car with my dad while he listened to Dire Straits or Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. As with so many things in my life, nostalgia takes the wheel once again and steers my taste. I love this album, it’s just meant for sunny Sunday afternoons and lying around on the couch, waiting to gently fall asleep in the pools of a softly filtered sunbeam.

The War on Drugs – Comin’ Through

Bow Ties with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

a blue shallow bowl full of bow tie pasta and roasted red pepper sauce and parmesan

It’s been a few weeks now since my obsession with jarred roasted red peppers began. I’ve been finding ways to include them in everything, from soup to salsa to this pasta sauce. I like to add freshly roasted sweet peppers to the jarred variety to punch up the pepper flavour, but there’s something so piquantly pleasant about the bright red strips and the brine they’ve been embalmed in . Oddly enough, I like to eat food that’s even spicier than my normal year round preference in the summertime so I’m always sure to add lots of my beloved dried chilies to the final product. Parmigiano-Reggiano is without a doubt the best choice for this pasta, the older the better. If you must substitute with another cheese I would opt for something entirely opposite of Reggiano such as fresh chèvre or Macedonian feta, crumbled.

bow ties with roasted red pepper sauce:

Enough bow tie pasta for 2 or 3 people

2 sweet peppers, cut into 1/2 inch strips

1 Tbsp. olive oil + more for drizzling

1 small onion, diced

1 jar of roasted red peppers, cut into thin strips + 1/3 cup of liquid from the jar

2 plum tomatoes, diced

1/2 cup vegetable stock

1 Tbsp. freshly chopped oregano or 1 tsp. dried oregano

1 Tbsp. fresh basil, cut in a very fine chiffonnade

Kosher or sea salt, to taste

Generous pile of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Dried red chilies

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the sweet pepper strips in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast the peppers for 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently towards the end. You want the peppers to be softened and just beginning to darken in spots.

2. Heat 1 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet and add the onion, jarred roasted peppers, the freshly roasted sweet peppers, and plum tomatoes. Add salt to taste and allow to cook for 10 minutes or so, or until the contents have become soft.

3. Add the vegetable stock and liquid from the jarred peppers and continue to cook down until the liquids have begun to thicken. Using a hand blender, carefully blitz the sauce in a few short bursts – you want the sauce to still have a somewhat coarse texture (if you don’t have a hand blender put a few ladlefuls of the sauce in a regular blender or food processor and mix back in afterwards).

4. Turn the heat down to low and prepare the bow tie pasta according to package directions. Top with a generous amount of roasted red pepper sauce, grated cheese, and, my favourite, dried chilies.

Aw! Love! When we moved last month Ian found all of our mix CDs from a decade ago; these CDs are so important because at the time I lived in London, Ontario and he lived in Olympia, Washington. Receiving one of these in the mail, all the tracks hand-written and oftentimes with a sweet love note tucked into the case as a surprise when you opened it for the first time, was so much bigger than a letter in some ways because it felt like you could experience the other person’s reality just a little bit easier and more tangibly.

Stars – Elevator Love Letter

 

 

Pasta with Bacon, Zucchini, and Creme Fraiche

Bacon and Zucchini Pasta

There are some nights when nothing will calm the stresses of your day except fat and carbs, nothing but a warm bowl of pasta covered in the comforting flavours of bacon, creme fraiche, and softly cooked zucchini. When I get home from work and it’s cold and raining I feel an instant need to have a hot shower and get into soft pyjamas. Once these immediate goals are accomplished I put on some music and return to the most pressing need of all, the need to cook with simple and filling ingredients in order to create a sensation of quiet domestic happiness (and this is a sensation I strongly crave after days filled with extroverted chatter.) Creme fraiche, a sort of high fat version of sour cream, is an easy addition creamy sauces as it gives a heavenly and rich mouthfeel but doesn’t carry the risk of separating when heated (unlike yogurt or lower fat sour creams.) You could substitute thinly sliced white button mushrooms for the zucchini and add fresh thyme and basil along with lemon zest and a quick squeeze of lemon juice. If you prefer an aged pecorino in place of the the Reggiano I humbly suggest a good sharp chunk of black peppercorn studded pecorino pepato.

bacon and zucchini pasta with creme fraiche:

3 strips of bacon, cut into small pieces (can be snipped with scissors)

2 tsp. olive oil

1 small zucchini, sliced into thin half moons

1 small red onion, sliced into thin half moons

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/2 cup of dry white wine or dry vermouth

1/2 cup of chicken stock

1/2 cup of creme fraiche

1/2 tsp. red chilli flakes

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

Juice of half a lemon

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Fresh parsley

200 g of dried pasta of your choice

100 g of Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely shredded (plus more for the table)

1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Before draining the pasta reserve 1/2 a cup of the pasta water to help thicken the sauce.

2. While the water is heating up cook the bacon over medium-high heat until crispy in a large skillet. Drain the bacon on paper towel and remove the excess bacon fat from the pan.

3. Add the olive oil to the pan and sauté the zucchini, onion, and garlic over medium-high heat until soft. Reduce heat to medium and stir in the chicken stock, white wine or vermouth, creme fraiche, bacon, chili, oregano, salt, a handful of Parmesan leaves, and kosher salt; allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes before stirring in the cooked pasta. Toss to coat and then toss again with the shredded Parmesan cheese. Serve in warmed bowls with extra child flakes, Reggiano, and fresh parsley.

My mom listened to a lot of Suzanne Vega when I was growing up. A lot of it I can remember as the soundtrack for when we would go on road trips to the beach at Grand Bend or Toronto. I would look at the liner notes over and over again in the passenger side of the car, watching the Ontario countryside flash by us as we drove down the highway. Or curled up in the backseat under a beach blanket, skin smelling like sunscreen and campfire, looking at the roaming lights created by lone car head lights in the wide open darkness of rural routes and apple orchards. Suzanne Vega was the first version of a cool person that I can think of really wanting to emulate (one day anyway, at the time I was only 10 years old.) I still want to be like her and I still love her music, I can listen to the album 99.9 F° over and over again without ever tiring of its initial pull; there’s something comforting about music and art that continues to protect as you (and it) gets older.

Suzanne Vega – Rock in This Pocket (Song of David)