I swear the water beads were starting to boil to the beat of Art Blakey’s lively version of “Mayreh” on Pandora as I watched the tall stainless steel asparagus pot (which doubles as our pasta cooker) mid-way through preparing my tweaked and unruly version of spaghetti with anchovies for the Cute Gardener this week.
Yes, it was MY turn to cook again and I was on a special mission – to elevate one of my favorite chef’s recipes while also adding a few signature Unorthodox twists of my own. I have decided that on the rare occasions I am able to make a meal, I am damn well going to make it special.
It started with a can of leftover anchovies just begging to be utilized as a form of salt in a noodle dish that led me to Chris Cosentino’s Food and Wine version of spaghetti with anchovies. Of course Chris, whom I love for the way he utilizes every inch of an animal (most iconic of which is pork), usually uses a tuna heart for the salty fish, grated on at the end of his preparation of the dish. But F&W dumbed it down a bit for us humble home cooks. I was also a fan of the use of egg yolk in the mix.
I had stopped on my way home earlier at my favorite Armenian market for a bag of three dollar spinach the size of a pillow to add a side dish to the pasta meal. That’s when I met the salty old sailor in line before me at the deli counter who graciously shared a slice of his fresh cut mortadella as we waited for my French feta to be packaged up. This in turn inspired me to purchase a few slices of the Italian bologna myself to add to my dish.
And before I knew it I was standing in the kitchen listening to jazz again (like I am prone to do while cooking) at 6:30 p.m. watching water beads dance in the pot again as bucatini slid in amongst the watery mist begging to be inwardly filled with hot juicy joy and the itch to be plumped.
A bottle of Heitz Cellar’s Sauvignon Blanc whittled away the last remaining bits of its wine cellar warmness in the fridge as I chopped warm toasted walnuts to spruce up my spinach.
The end result was a pasta dish salty enough for generous old sailors, bastardized enough for palates that like to cross cultures, and worthy of the thick girthed bucatini that carried its skinny-legged sauce.
Bucatini with Anchovy Carbonara
Adapted from the Food and Wine recipe
8 ounces bucatini
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
One 2-ounce can flat anchovies, drained and chopped
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon chopped oregano
1/8 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 large egg yolk
1 slice of mortadella, rolled up and thinly sliced to produce strands
Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the bucatini until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil with the garlic and anchovies and cook over moderately high heat until the anchovies have dissolved, about 2 minutes. Add the mortadella, red pepper, zest, oregano and parsley, then add the pasta and toss to coat. Remove from the heat.
In a small bowl, whisk the yolk with the reserved cooking water and add to the pasta. Cook over low heat, tossing until the pasta is coated in a creamy sauce, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
4 cups fresh spinach
2 ounces French feta, crumbled
¼ c. chopped walnuts, toasted
2 tbls. olive oil
Salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a large skillet and toss the walnuts in it. Add the spinach and wilt to your liking. Right before serving toss with the feta crumbles. Season with salt and pepper and spritz some lemon juice over the whole bunch.