16 May 2009

Like lost sheep

Sometimes, when Jeff and I feel that a simple, lovely meal is in order, we pick up a box of fresh pasta at the farmer's market. We head straight to the Knoll Crest Farm stand, which is also where we buy our eggs (which, by the way, are the best eggs ever, especially when served extremely runny over pan-fried potatoes, recipe coming soon). We also pick up some herbs and salad, and voilà! A lovely springtime meal.

It is espeically nice when compensating for the night before, if you had gone out, as we had, to eat a good deal of Italian food. A few friends and we made the long trek up to the Arthur Avenue section of the Bronx, one of the last bastions of true Italian food in New York. We were all so excited about going, until we realized that getting to Arthur Avenue itself took much longer than we had expected--about 30 minutes of wandering around like lost sheep, hoping that we were headed in the right direction.

But we did have some good pizza at Zero Otto Nove. Good thing, too, because all that walking had made us hungry. There was also excellent cannoli. I hadn't had a cannoli for such a long time, and this was just so lovely--a crispy, shattering shell, filled withe fresh ricotta and mascarpone cheese filling. KILLER, I tell you.

So that left us last night wanting something a little simpler. And as pesto season really hasn't hit yet, this preparation really does the trick. It's very light, herby, garlic-y, and spicy. Have it with a green salad, and you have exactly what you want. If you do make this, be very careful when you add the water to the oil. Stand as far back from the stove as you can, so you don't get splattered all over with hot oil. Wear an apron. And don't worry about the amount of oil used in this recipe. I promise, it's well worth it.

Fresh Fettuccini with Garlic, Olive Oil, and Red Pepper Flakes, adapted from Everyday Italian

1 pound fresh pasta (dried also works just fine)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

NB: this is a very quick recipe, so be sure to know what to expect before you head into cooking. I find that I need to time this pretty carefully, since everything takes less than five minutes once the pasta gets going. Have a mise en place. Be sure to have your cooking tools at the ready.

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Don't leave out the salt, because it gives the pasta just a little more oomph than if you don't. Add the pasta and cook, stirring often, until tender but still firm to the bite (about 3 minutes for fresh pasta--it will overcook very quickly, so keep an eye on it). Drain, reserving 2 tablespoons cooking liquid. Do not rinse the spaghetti with water, you want to retain the natural starched that help the sauce adhere to the pasta.

2. MEANWHILE, in a large sauté pan, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the garlic and sauté until golden and fragrant, about 1 minute. It's important not to overcook the garlic or else it will become bitter. Using a fork, remove and discard garlic. Add the red pepper flakes and sauté for 1 minute. Carefully stir in reserved cooking liquid (keep at arm's length!) and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Immediately add drained pasta and toss for 1 minute to coat well. Turn off heat, and add the fresh herbs, toss to distribute evenly. Serve immediately, with freshly grated cheese.

Zero Otto Nove
2357 Arthur Avenue
Bronx, NY 10458
(718) 220-1027

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