The other day I was chatting with a friend as she cooked dinner, and she mentioned she was following a recipe for pasta e fagiole that was barely a recipe at all. The recipe (written by another of her friends) told her to throw in a few sprigs of rosemary, and a glug or two of white wine. She was a little perplexed, but she kept at it, noting she felt like Julia Child, cooking without precise measurements.
We threw in a few impersonations for good measure.
I was taken aback a little by her level of discomfort, though, because she cooks often. But a lot of people don’t love cooking when they don’t have specific instructions.
Funny though, because when said friend asked me what was on our dinner menu that night, I mentioned we were also having pasta, hold the recipe (Italy, I miss you).
Dear readers, next time you make pasta, try to make it without a recipe. What do you usually do to sauce your pasta? Fry up some garlic and add cream? Let some olive oil sizzle and add tomatoes? Crack a giant egg on top of your noodles while they’re piping hot? As long as you’re adding a solid cup of cheese, your dinner is not going to taste bad.
I’m going to tell you how I made Fettuccine all’Amatriciana for dinner, because we’re almost to the point in a post where that happens. But I didn’t measure anything, so you shouldn’t feel like you need to either. And if you want to change things up by adding sprigs of something and glugs of something else, I think you should. Messing around in the kitchen is great fun.
To make Fettucine all’Amatriciana for 4, you will need:
- Fettucine (I had somewhere between 12 and 16 oz.)
- a couple slice bacon, chopped (bonus points if you have thick cut pancetta, diced)
- red pepper flakes
- black pepper
- 1 onion, small diced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1, 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
- tons of Parmesan cheese (or Romano if you want to be more authentic)
Cook bacon in large skillet till brown and crispy. When bacon is cooked, add red pepper flakes (a little pinch goes a longer way than you’d think) and black pepper, and stir quickly. Add onion and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in garlic till you can smell that you added it. Pour in diced tomatoes and their juices. Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and let it bubble on the stove while you bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a couple tablespoons of salt to the boiling water, and add pasta. Cook according to package directions. Rather than draining, use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer pasta to skillet. This will ensure you still have that great, starchy pasta water leftover. Add about 1/2 C water to the sauce to thin it out a little. Toss pasta and sauce, and if it still hasn’t thinned enough, add pasta water by the quarter-cupful until you get the consistency you’re looking for. Drown your dinner with cheese, and serve immediately.