The Exiguous Spouse and the Best Tomato Pasta
Thursday: Pasta with corn, peas, basil and mushrooms
Saturday: Sheet Pan Pizza
Monday: Fresh Pasta with Buttered Tomatoes
Tuesday: Vichysoisse with Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Sandwiches
Last week, Beez and I spent a few days at Nemacolin Woodlands, a superb and highly unique resort (wonderful restaurants, cigar bar, secret bar with single malts behind the cigar bar, two championship golf courses, a wildlife preserve, survival course, swimming pools, gym, spa, and acres of trails and walks in an environment as well kept as Gulf Shore Boulevard, North, in Naples, Florida). Beez was engaged, much of the time, in a board retreat with an important health care organization, though she did go up half a day early to play a round of golf with me and others. I played golf, went to the gym, read, ate, drank and trembled as I walked around vast, fenced enclosures housing bears (really huge), tigers (really huge), lions (big enough), and mountain goats (meh) while keeping an eye out for any suspicious digging at the base of the fence or any links that looked a bit hinky. (There is a picture of one of the golf courses below the recipe)
“Ah,” said the friend to whom I told all this, “you were the tag-along husband. That is my ambition in life.” Now my friend is anything but a tag-along husband – a man of serious business acumen and success, a pillar of church and community. I am none of those things, but ‘tag-along’ feels a bit off. I get a mental picture of myself addressing Beez as ‘Kimo Sabe.’ So, I’ve decided to call myself the ‘exiguous spouse,’ but only in the context of attending board retreats or conferences with SWMBO.
Hell, in the kitchen, I am a man of parts, lord of knife, cutting board, skillet and oven . . . Scratch that, it doesn’t sound right either. But it is true that I’ve got some great advice for you if you are charged with feeding family and friends. And particularly, at this time of year, some advice about what to do when your cherry tomato plants birth new tomatoes in the same volume and at the same velocity as Escherichia coli replicates in sugary broth (look it up).
Pasta and tomatoes are, obviously, a partnership ordained by God during those six days of furious activity narrated in Genesis. But, of course, the world has come down a peg since then. There is, for instance, Chef Boyardee, whose spaghetti and meat balls and mini ravioli seemed to work with our sons but which I would never voluntarily taste again. There is, also, the sugary glop sold at highway rest stops and so many other if-you-are-hungry-here’s-some-food-and-don’t-go-all-Michelin-critic-on-us places.
But there is also Marcella Hazan’s basic tomato sauce with fettucine, Alex Guarnaschelli’s Pasta Putanesca, and even Rao’s bottled (don’t sneer) Vodka Sauce with any pasta or meatballs. And then . . . and then there is Fresh Pasta with Buttered Cherry Tomatoes. (Dried pasta will work almost as well.) Trust me, this is not just another pasta dish which will fill your guests, taste pretty good and earn you thanks, if not praise. This is the pasta dish to die for. I’d make extra, if I were you. And this dish has the beauty of being easy to cook.
FRESH PASTA WITH BUTTERED TOMATOES
(adapted from bon appétit, September, 2022)
Note: We used fresh pasta from an Italian market. Bon appétit has a recipe for quick, fresh pasta which I’ve included below the primary recipe. You can certainly use a good dried pasta and make a superb dinner.
If you have the pasta ready, about 12 minutes. If making pasta, add 1 ½ to 4 hours
Ingredients: Feeds 4
12 – 16 oz. of good dried or fresh pasta noodles. Pappardelle works best for this dish, but fettucine or even thick spaghetti would do well.¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup of water
2 pints Sun Gold or Cherry tomatoes, halved and divided. [We used a mix of sun gold and cherry – those plastic containers you find in most stores are a pint. You’re going to cook half the tomatoes to make a sauce and throw in the other half with the pasta to finish the cooking.]
4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon anchovy sauce or fish sauce (we used fish sauce)
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes – we used a bit more
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced – we used one large clove
2 oz. parmesan (1 ½ cups), plus more for serving
4 tablespoon torn basil, divided – you’ll use half in cooking, half for garnish
Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil.
Halve the tomatoes and slice the garlic and measure out the parmesan, butter, crushed red pepper flakes and fish or anchovy sauce.
Put the ¼ cup of olive oil in a Dutch oven or large, deep-sided skillet.
Measure out the water.
Gather the basil, but don’t tear it until you’re ready to cook.
If using fresh pasta, cook the tomatoes first. And, I’d cook them first anyway so that you’re not juggling two preparations on the stove at once.
The tomato sauce:
Heat the oil in the pan over medium. When hot, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until garlic is just golden and fragrant – 1-2 minutes. NOTE: You do not want to burn the garlic, so you might want to start the oil at a lower temperature and move it up as you cook. Do not leave the pot to play Wordle, diaper a child or even to staunch a wound.
Mix in half the tomatoes with a big pinch of salt and the ¼ cup of water. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and . . .
The pasta and finishing the dish:
Once the water is boiling in the other pot, salt it heavily and add the pasta. Cook until just al dente. With fresh pasta this is about 1 minute, with dry, follow the instructions on the package. Meanwhile, get a low heat going under the sauce.
Reserve a few ladles full of the pasta water and drain the pasta, then put it into the sauce. Add the butter, the fish sauce or anchovy sauce, the remaining tomatoes and 2 oz. of parmesan and 2 tablespoons of torn basil. Using tongs, cook, stirring and adding pasta water if needed, until the pasta is coated and glossy – 2-4 minutes.
Season with salt.
Serve, topped with more parmesan and basil.
If you want to make your own pasta, gather 2 cups plus of semolina flour (you’ll need some for dusting). Mix the 2 cups of semolina with 2/3 cup of just-boiled boiling water in a bowl until the flour is moistened and looks pebbly. The mixture will look dry but will hydrate as it sits but add up to 1 tablespoons of additional water if large patches of dry flour remain.
After a minute or so knead the dough in the bowl until a smooth, cohesive dough forms – maybe 3 minutes. Transfer to a resealable plastic bag, close the bag while pressing out all of the air and let the dough rest at room temperature for 1-4 hours.
Divide the dough into 4 pieces and, working with 1 piece at a time (keep the other pieces sealed in the bag), roll out the dough on a surface into a long, narrow 1/16 inch thick rectangle (about 16×8 inches). Dust lightly with semolina flour and, starting at the shorter end, fold the dough into thirds (the flour will keep it from sticking). Cut into ¾” ribbons with a sharp knife. Gently unfurl the ribbons and transfer them to a lightly floured rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the other three pieces of dough.
You are ready to cook – this pasta will take only a minute or so to cook in boiling, salted water. Stir to keep the ribbons from clumping.
4 thoughts on “The Exiguous Spouse and the Best Tomato Pasta”
Always a treat Bill…. however, I would not put you in the category of being an exiguous spouse! Agree, nothing beats good pasta with good summer vegetables and butter. Thank you for good read. Cheers🐇💕💙😎🍷
Oops – make that Rao’s not rat’s!
I too love Rao’s!
Have been to Nemacolin. Great place!!!