Chef Ben Poremba (Olio, Elaia, Nixta, Benevolent King) recently posted a FB photo of a pasta dish. Ben says that in his home kitchen, he never buys ingredients specifically for pasta. He just composes from whatever he has on hand and never bothers to keep a recipe.
But the #1 rule for success, he says, is that pasta is never sauced, it’s dressed. That is, the sauce should blend harmoniously. To accomplish this union, he suggests adding a bit of pasta water and cheese to the finally mixture.
A Look in the Fridge
Thus inspired, I opened the door of my fridge the other day in the hopes of finding some ingredients I could assemble with the same enthusiasm Ben portrayed. From the far recesses of the icebox (as my parents always called our refrigerator and I still do sometimes), I uncovered a zucchini, yellow squash, onion, a bit of hamburger meat, and a chunk of cheddar cheese.
By golly, I had me the makin’s for a pasta sauce!
So I sauteed the onion in a little olive oil along with a few cloves of garlic and a dash of red pepper flakes and some guanciale, that I found in the freezer. (Guanciale is a very flavorful, cured pork jowl, but bacon would have worked as well.) Then I added the sliced squash along with salt and pepper and let it saute pleasantly.
While all that was going on, I cooked some pappardelle noodles and added them to the skillet. At the end, I sprinkled in the shredded cheddar and grated Parmesan. I absentmindedly poured most of the pasta water down the drain before saving a bit for the dish as Ben has advised. And because I like some kick to my pasta, it got a jolt of hot sauce, too.
To round out the meal, I had a slice of olive bread. Russ has gotten me the loaf at Soulard Market bakery earlier that day, because he knows how much I enjoy it. It’s the only place I’ve found that offers several varieties of olive bread.
Ahh. . . home cooked meals are the best even when they’re leftovers from an improvised recipe.
Okay, now it’s your turn. What’s lurking in the refrigerator waiting to be transformed by your kitchen wizardry? What did you do to your creation to make it especially tasty?
Note: Thanks, Ben, for the inspiration.