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

Easy Summer Spaghetti with Yellow Squash, Tomatoes, and Quick Homemade Pesto

A round white bowl full of spaghetti, yellow squash, and grape tomatoes covered with green pesto and topped with parmesan cheese,.

I have a very bad habit of getting overwhelmed with summer produce, the choice in colour and flavour is unmatched the rest of the year (at least for me, in British Columbia). This means that I’m sometimes able to convince myself it’s a good idea to buy 6 summer squash because I can’t resist their sunny coats, or an excess of tiny tomatoes smelling of pleasantly earthy and dried out vines. Or, I’ll buy huge quantities of fresh arugula or that overwhelmingly fresh-smelling gigantic bunch of mint. Luckily, this recipe for Easy Summer Spaghetti with Yellow Squash, Tomatoes, and Quick Homemade Pesto is a common fix for an overabundance of vegetables. The summer vegetables can be swapped out for whatever you have in your vegetable drawer, the options are virtually limitless in terms of variety and methods of combination. The pesto is easy, and yes, extremely quick to put together and once again can function as a delicious means to using up all those slightly wilted herbs and greens lurking in the crisper. I use pepitas instead of pine nuts in my quick pesto, because I rarely have them in the pantry and I’ve always been sensitive to nut allergies (I’m not allergic to pine nuts, but my mom is and I’ve grown up trying to be very careful). You could also use slivered almonds or cashews for an extra luxurious texture.

easy summer spaghetti with yellow squash, tomatoes, and quick homemade pesto:

1 yellow summer squash, cut into 2 cm slices and then into thick matchsticks

1 pint grape tomatoes, washed

2 shallots or 1/2 a small onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1 package of spaghetti

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

  1. Put a big pot of salted water on to boil while you cut up your vegetables.
  2. Prepare the spaghetti according to package directions and as it cooks sauté the summer squash, tomatoes, shallots, and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until everything starts to soften and the garlic gets really fragrant, season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining the spaghetti. Return the pasta to the pot and stir in the cooked vegetables and pesto, adding the cooking liquid in small increments until the desired sauce coverage is achieved.
  4. Serve the spaghetti in warmed shallow dishes with a liberal dusting of grated cheese and a few extra cracks of fresh pepper.

for the pesto:

About 2-3 cups of fresh herbs and greens, loosely torn (I like to use a combination of fresh mint, basil, parsley and arugula for this recipe)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 Tbsp. pepitas

1 tsp kosher salt

1 ounce of parmesan, grated

3 Tbsp. olive oil

Blitz together the herbs/greens, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and parmesan in a food processor until everything is finely chopped. Slowly pour the olive oil into the the feed chute until the pesto is creamy and emulsified, scraping down the sides a couple of times as it’s being processed.

I’ve been mostly listening to classical music  while I cook, that or Iris Murdoch’s The Good Apprentice on audiobook. I have really nice, consistently calming summer memories involving classical piano music playing with the windows open. I have just as many wonderful thoughts about cooking at the end of the day to relax and unwind, floating around on a cloud of Chopin with my pyjamas on and a glass of wine. Either way, pleasant feelings.

Chopin – Complete Nocturnes (Brigitte Engerer)

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Greens and Bacon

whole wheat spaghetti kale bacon

This whole wheat spaghetti with greens and bacon is the happy result of an experiment in emptying out my fridge. Thanksgiving is fast approaching and I’ll need a near empty fridge for groceries; I’m hosting a dinner for 12 on Sunday evening and I’m going to be cooking some amazing food (but no turkey, I’m at best indifferent towards turkey.) This recipe that follows is flexible in its use of ingredients: use any kind of pasta you would like, use broccoli/spinach/Swiss chard/arugula and adjust cooking times as necessary, use a different type of cheese and experiment with different textures and flavours, etc., etc. The egg could also be omitted, but I love the creamy texture that follows when a soft boiled egg is cut open over a bowl of pasta. Getting creative when I feel stumped in the kitchen at the end of the day can be very therapeutic. Maybe it’s because the sensation of repetitive movement is comforting to me, but quietly concentrating on chopping up vegetables is an immensely calming experience each night. Each time you allow yourself to be playful in the kitchen you are fostering your culinary instinct so that on those nights when your cupboards look bare you won’t be quite as devastated but rather tentatively excited.

whole wheat spaghetti with greens and bacon:

(this serves 3-4 people)

About 8 oz. of whole wheat pasta

2 strips of bacon, cut into very thin strips

1 tsp. olive oil

3 cups of kale, destemmed and cut into fine ribbons

5 small bok choy, rinsed and cut into thick pieces (separate ribs from leaves as they take longer to cook)

1/2 cup of stock (I used beef stock, chicken or vegetable would also be good)

1/2 cup fresh basil, cut in a chiffonade

One egg for each person, soft boiled*

Shaved Parmesan or Grana Padano

Freshly cracked pepper and salt to taste

1. Cook the whole wheat spaghetti according to package directions while you’re making the rest of the recipe, it will take the same amount of time if your ingredients are prepped ahead of time.

2. Cook the bacon over medium heat in a saucepan with a fitted lid until crisp (leave uncovered while cooking the bacon.) Drain on paper towel.

3. Discard bacon grease from the pot and add olive oil, kale, and bok choy ribs. Stir to coat with the oil before adding the stock. Cover and allow to steam for 5 minutes. Add the bok choy leaves and fresh basil, cook for 1 minutes before taking off the the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Combine the greens with the pasta, tossing to combine. Serve with a warm soft boiled egg  broken over the pasta with shavings of Parmesan cheese.

*To soft boil an egg: bring a pot of water to a rolling simmer. Carefully lower the eggs one at a time into the water and simmer for 5-7 minutes depending on how set you like your eggs. Remove eggs from the hot water and run under cold water for 1 minute. Peel immediately  but be watch your hands as the eggs will still be ver hot.

When I think about it, a lot of the music I like as an adult is a natural extension of the melodic emo I was really into as a teenager. I still love Sunny Day Real Estate and The Appleseed Cast and I think that bias shows when I listen to bands like DIIV, this whole album resonates with my experience of high school seamlessly. Now it’s what I listen to when I’m running through the leaves at 7:30 on dark October nights. There’s something comforting to be said about being in a cocoon of music in the dark, feeling completely invisible as you pass other people.

DIIV – Past Lives

Chicken Cacciatore

Chicken Cacciatore reminds me of dinners at my grandma’s condominium when she would babysit my sister and I for the night. I remember this dish in particular because when I would ask what we were having for supper she would reply “parrots gizzards” completely deadpan. And you know, not knowing what “gizzards” were at a young age I believed her; it always tasted so good that I never gave the parrot part a second thought. But now, realizing my errors in bird identification, I absolutely love making this dish. It’s something that takes about 20 minutes of assembly and then you just leave it to simmer for about 40 minutes while you have a relaxing soak in the bathtub with a book.  Prepare some buttered spaghetti noodles, top with the chicken and the sauce, and dinner is ready. Really reassuringly simple food doesn’t come any easier than this.

Chicken Cacciatore:

 

4 skinless whole chicken legs, or 6 skinless chicken thighs

4 Tbsp. all-purpose flower

3 Tbsp.vegetable oil

1 medium sized onion, sliced into thin half-moons

2 cloves of garlic, minced finely

2 cups mushrooms, sliced thinly

1 small red pepper, cut into thin strips

4 sundried tomatoes in oil, minced finely

1 bottle of Italian Passata OR a 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes

1/2 cup of dry white wine OR chicken stock

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 lb. of spaghetti

1 Tbsp. salted butter

Parsley or rosemary (as a garnish)

1. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, making sure each piece is thoroughly covered. Heat the oil in a shallow skillet over medium-high heat; brown the chicken on both sides and then transfer to a plate.

2. Turn the heat down to medium and add the onions, garlic, mushrooms, and red peppers. Cook for five minutes while stirring frequently. Add the Passata, wine or chicken stock, and sundried tomatoes. Place the chicken back in the pan so it is covered with the sauce and allow to simmer for 35 to 40 minutes. Add kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

3. Cook the spaghetti according to package instructions in well-salted water. Toss with butter.

4. To serve place a small mound of pasta on the plate and then cover with a piece of chicken and large spoonful of the sauce. Garnish with parsley or fresh rosemary.

I made this on Friday night after a giant grocery shop; Friday night cooking is the best cooking because my boyfriend and I can just relax and spend some time together. We had a few beers and I cooked and he chatted with me about work. Birdy Nam Nam is a smooth background sound and this video is amazing to watch. I also think their name is entirely appropriate, Peter Sellers would definitely listen to this at The Party. In many ways Birdy Nam Nam reminds me of Dmitri from Paris but slightly less spastic and dance-y, their self-titled album is a warm and lush treat for your Friday-night ears.

Birdy Nam Nam – Abbesses