ITALIAN PASTA CLASSICS: Penne alla Vodka; Tuscan Spaghetti Bolognese; Crispy Spaghetti Carbonara with Dandelion Greens and Pecorino; Linguine Aglio e Olio con Acciuga; Garlicky Angel Hair with Shrimp and Scallops; Sardine Linguine with Sundried Tomato and Olives; Pasta with Spicy Italian Sausage, Broccoli Rabe, and Sun-dried Tomato Pesto; Genovese Pesto Pasta
Recently, I had a bunch of friends over for taco night. It’s such a good dinner for entertaining a crowd–we’ve done it here and here, and my family’s been making fajita buffets for ourselves and guests for as long as I can remember. There isn’t that much cooking involved, which is why it’s an amazing weeknight choice in the first place. I’d made a big pan of chicken thighs, grated cheese, and diced a couple avocados. My guests chipped in with chips, salsa, and beer. Low maintenance, don’t you think?
So then why, when Anika went to put her sixpack of UFO Hefeweizen on the refrigerator shelf next to other guests’ six packs of Pacifico and Brooklyn Lager, did I feel the need to apologize profusely for the state of my fridge, so stuffed with non-taco night ingredients that we had to play Tetris to find a spot for six 12-ounce bottles?
Because I’m messy by nature, and because to me refrigerator doors are perfect shields for separating my eclectic assortment of jars, bottles, and containers of leftovers from the apparent organization of my shiny-countered kitchen. I have to take photos in there! And Alex and I have to live and eat there. So the messy collage of my kitchen life is perpetually framed only in my fridge, the opened bags of almonds, pecans, and walnuts that I need for my weekly batch of granola, the opened bags of chocolate chips that I like to eat handfuls of for dessert, the dozen bottles of champagne (don’t ask). I may not have needed much space for taco ingredients, but that was good, because the fridge was full long before I invited anyone over for Mexican.
And really, how could I throw out that red onion jam, when it has the ability to transform itself into French Onion Grilled Cheese? Or that little plastic bag of cold linguine, begging to become breakfast’s Fried Noodles? Leftovers are my currency, my inspiration.
Obviously, I also would never have tossed those capers from last fall’s Chicken Marbella, or those black olives from an impulse buy at Sahadi’s, or the rest of the chickpeas from the big batch I made in my slow cooker. And in they all went to a classic pasta that, like me, adores the remnants of the fridge: spicy, tangy Puttanesca. In it, half-full jars of capers, olives, anchovies, and chickpeas are cooked in olive oil and tomatoes until those tomatoes are richly flavored.
From my kitchen, loving leftovers, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Linguine Puttanesca with Chickpeas
I’ve written before about Alex and my love for pasta and our Sunday night spaghetti tradition. Leftovers or not, that’s really why I’m posting this now: it’s a great main dish for Valentine’s Day, whether you’ve been dating someone for a while or are cooking for him/her for the first time.
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves of garlic, minced
pinch red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons capers
1/3 cup black olives, pitted and chopped coarsely (you’ll want about 16)
One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, pureed with a handheld blender or food processor*
3/4 cup chickpeas, drained
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
3/4 pound linguine
Note: I like to buy whole tomatoes, then blend them myself because I think they taste better. However, you can buy pureed tomatoes, or you can simply mince the whole tomatoes pretty finely and skip the blender.
Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta.
In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, then add the anchovies and break them up with your spoon, helping them dissolve into the oil. When the garlic is just golden, about 2 minutes more, add the red pepper flakes, capers, olives, and tomatoes. Stir to combine, then bring the mixture up to a boil. Throw in the chickpeas and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is no longer watery. Add about half the parsley, and taste for salt, sprinkling some in if needed (you might not need any–anchovies and olives are salty).
When the sauce is nearly thickened, add at least 2 tablespoons of salt to your boiling water, then add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Reserve 3/4 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta and add it to the saucepan with the Puttanesca sauce and stir to combine, adding some of the reserved pasta water to help the sauce coat the noodles.
Serve immediately, topped with the remaining parsley. (I skip the cheese on this one: it doesn’t really need it.)