This pasta is meant for Friday nights alone
It’s 68 degrees and grey, which is practically sweater weather in August, and this is as close to a perfect ending to a stressful week as a *mostly* introverted gal can ask for.
Soon the workday will be over and I’m putting together a plan that includes a bottle of Chianti, a butter-drenched tomato sauce (more on this in a moment), and tending to all the little piles of clutter on all the surfaces of my apartment while NOT wearing pants, but most definitely wearing a long-sleeved tee and soft-soft socks.
Sometimes, though maybe not as often as some might believe, I crave deep solitude. Especially if said solitude is book-ended by social plans and a post-anxiety hangover. I like to give these moments of respite the respect they deserve by planning for them the way I might an intimate date. Boozy drink? Yes. Meal from scratch? Certainly. Moisturized legs? Of course.
I used to have this irrational fear about spending Friday nights alone, maybe because at some point in college THAT became the night that EVERYONE had to go out to the club and if you weren’t going out to the club than what was wrong with you. But a 19 year old on a Friday has energy. I am neither 19 nor energetic nor do I go to the club anymore. I went dancing a couple years ago for a friend’s birthday and someone had to drive me home and put me to bed because I got sleepy.
Now a quiet Friday night in makes me swoony. I can tolerate a very chill outing with a very chill friend for a glass of wine and some charcuterie, sure, but rest assured that I will still be in bed by 10:30pm with a tall glass of water and a cat and maybe (probably) some light astrology reading (ie. zodiac memes that friends send).
Have I mentioned that this week has felt like a 100 years long? Synapses are barely firing and there’s been too much junk food and I’m craving sustenance and comfort and mindlessness and maybe an audiobook because it’s nice when someone else reads things to you. I want to spend time at the stove and I don’t want to think about it. This can only mean one thing: pasta.
Pasta requires only kinetic energy, no thought, which basically makes it meditation. Sure, sometimes I’ll follow a recipe, but mostly I just follow my intuition and this particular “recipe” is basically all I’ve made for the last 9 days.
In it’s simplest form, it’s tomatoes and butter simmering in a frying pan until the tomatoes become slouchy and then al dente pasta gets added, and perhaps some pasta water, too, to get things moving and saucified. I’ve been punching it up with garlic and red pepper flakes and fresh basil, because I have those things on hand, but if I didn’t I wouldn’t let that stop me.
One night I added some chopped yellow squash because why not and it was lovely, too. Last night I almost added a shrinkled peach but chickened out and now I wish I had so I could tell you about it cause I really think it would have been next level. Parmesan is the only non-negotiable for me and you will never find my fridge devoid of it. These days, thanks to the judgement of a certain someone, I keep real parm on hand because apparently the stuff in a plastic container is appalling and shameful, but that is neither here nor there.
Buttery Tomato Sauce for One
(easily doubled, tripled, etc, for larger crowds but don’t play that game if expecting leftovers — this is best fresh)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tomato, chopped or a heaping handful of cherry/grape tomatoes, quartered
1-2 tablespoons butter (up to you)
1-3 pinches of red pepper flakes (depends on spice tolerance)
pinch of kosher salt
a couple cracks of fresh pepper
fresh basil, sliced into ribbons
pasta of choice
Cook pasta according to package directions, but under-cook by 1 minute. Pasta will finish cooking in sauce. Reserve a 1/4 cup of pasta water before draining.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in frying pan over medium-low heat and add garlic. Saute until garlic just starts to soften, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, toss, and cover. Cook until they start to breakdown, about 5 minutes. (If adding any other veggie, such as zucchini, bell peppers, onions, or peaches, add them now and let them soften with the tomatoes.)
Add butter, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir occasionally and lower temperature or cover with a lid if tomato juices begin to dry up. You want this to stay saucy.
Add cooked pasta and toss. For a saucier consistency, add some of the reserved pasta water. If it’s too saucy, turn up heat and keep stirring until some of the liquid evaporates.
Add the basil and toss just before serving with the Parmesan.