I think I may have mentioned this before , but among other things, I love pasta. I really do. There is no discrimination whatsoever between fresh and vibrant red sauces and rich and creamy white sauces, not to mention every other ethereal sauce inbetween. Once upon a time, however, this wasn’t so.
I was inexperienced, un-worldy, and young younger. Back then, I was somewhat deluded and convinced that The Old Spaghetti Factory was the paramount of all things or places quintessentially pasta. A conviction that has not, I admit, entirely eluded me due to sentimental memories. It was precisely here where my love affair with pasta first truly begun. Of course, nothing has really ever beat Adela’s spaghetti and meat sauce at home, but it was at this American spaghetti chain restaurant (can you believe it?) that I began to widen my horizons, sort of. What, you ask, could have possibly initiated and marked such a revolutionary moment? Spaghetti with butter and cheese. It’s emulsified butter and cheese in pasta water that elicits a smooth, nutty, and luscious flavor – a most simple, modest, and rustic staple in the realm of pasta. It’s the classic foundation for many other beloved creamy sauces which makes this impossible to dislike for amateurs and connoisseurs alike.
And, who better to be well-rehearsed in such uncomplicated recipes than New York Times’ “Minimalist” food writer: Mark Bittman? I am a huge fan. The at-home cook lives by the ideology that one should not eat “things your grandmother wouldn’t recognize” and “things with more than five ingredients,” emphasizing that it’s about going back to the accessible basics and consuming foods that aren’t excessively corrupted by God knows what. It’s about enjoying the sheer pleasures of unpretentious cooking and wholesome eating. What could possibly be greater?
Spaghetti with Butter and Parmesan
*This recipe is infinitely adaptable & comes with some suggestions (Yippee).
Adapted from Mark Bittman
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 to 6 tablespoons (1/2 to 3/4 stick) butter
1 pound long pasta, like linguine or spaghetti, or any other pasta
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or more to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Meanwhile, bring the butter to room temperature (you can soften it in a microwave, but be careful not to melt it). Put it in a warm bowl.
Cook the pasta until tender but not mushy; drain it, reserving some of the cooking water. Toss the pasta with the butter, adding a little of the water if necessary to thin the sauce. Toss with the Parmesan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve immediately, passing additional Parmesan at the table.
10 Additions to Pasta with Butter and Parmesan
Add one of a combination of any to the basic recipe.
- Any chopped fresh herb of your choice or a mixture of herbs; mint is especially nice, about 1/2 cup or so
- About 1 cup cooked peas
- 1/4 cup chopped toasted almonds or pistachios
- Up to 2 cups cooked and drained broccoli florets
- 2 or 3 large cooked artichoke hearts, sliced
- A tablespoon or so grated lemon or orange zest
- A tablespoon or so salted or brined capers
- Ground dried or dried and smoked chiles, like ancho, chipotle, or guajillo, to taste
- 2 to 4 sunny-side-up fried eggs, roughly chopped, or poached eggs (toss with the pasta)
- 10 to 20 mashed roasted garlic cloves (what I chose to add, along with some fresh corn)