Saturday, May 14, 2011


This time last week I was at the Kentucky Derby. It was honestly one of the funnest events I've ever been to. It may have been that I could drink mint juleps for 12-hours straight—and I wasn't the only person doing it. It might be because I was with a group of super awesome friends (new and old) and we were all dressed up fancy, which I don't get to do often enough in casual, beachy California. I do know it wasn't because I won any money, that's for sure. I also just love new adventures and experiences. It makes me feel alive, like I'm really taking advantage of my time on this Earth.

Because I played hooky from work for a few days to attend, I landed in Santa Barbara and found myself walking smack into a brutal marathon of professional commitments. I believe in the motto, "you've gotta pay to play," so I'm not complaining, but I must say Friday couldn't come soon enough this week. I'd been functioning in zombie mode for the past few days, just trying to keep afloat and make sure no balls dropped. When I woke up this morning I felt like I could finally take a deep breath and relax. It felt so good to wake up with the sunshine streaming through my window in my own bed. I don't think I moved once during the night so it felt good to stretch out, my toes feeling the cold undisturbed corners of the sheets.

Once I'd run the requisite errands, it was luxurious to just sink into my sofa and watch a few episodes of Glee I'd missed with all my recent travels and read through a stack of magazines that'd been piling up. As much as I love to travel, it felt decidedly wonderful to be home. When hunger got the best of me, I wandered into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator half expecting it to be filled with oodles of fresh Farmers Market produce and a lovely salmon filet. For a girl who's spent 15 out of the last 28 days on the road, I'd say that was clearly delusional. Instead I found 26 jars of condiments, some wilted celery, a dried out bag of baby carrots, an expired carton of milk, and a 6-pack of beer. Not exactly inspiring. As I walked toward the pantry, I spied the cover of the May issue of Bon Appetit. On it was a bowl of simple pasta pomodoro, claiming to be the "simplest, silkiest sauce you'll ever make." In that moment, I couldn't think of anything more perfect or homey than that bowl of pasta. Thank goodness I had the few necessary ingredients on hand because I simply couldn't bare the thought of having to leave my house again.

So I began chopping, sautéing, stirring, simmering, which felt almost meditative after being out of the kitchen for so long. I even loved that my windows were starting to fog up from the kitchen heat.

Shortly thereafter, I found myself eating this lovely bowl of pasta delicately coated in a truly delicious sauce. The simplicity was where the genius laid. At times I love nothing more than to spend an entire day composing a ridiculously complex dish. But tonight, I just wanted to sit down with a beautiful glass of wine, spin a few strands of painted pasta around my fork and turn pages in a magazine while sitting on a bar stool in my own kitchen. It was no Kentucky Derby, but it was perfect.

Pasta al Pomodoro
from Bon Apetit

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 28-oz can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
1 Tbsp kosher salt
5 large basil leaves, chopped
12 oz spaghetti or capellini
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino

Heat olive oil in a 12" skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion, stirring until soft, about 12 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 2-4 minutes. Add a pinch (or more) of pepper flakes; cook for 1 minute. Add can of tomatoes and season with salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens slightly and the flavors meld, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in basil and set aside.
Meanwhile bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil and add pasta. Cook according to directions but remove 1-2 minutes before tender. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. Stir in the pasta water to loosen the sauce; bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring, until sauce coasts pasta, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter and cheese. Transfer to bowls and serve with more cheese if desired. Yield: 4 servings.

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