So, I didn’t really know how to tell you this earlier, but we’ve gone to roam. I mean, we are in Rome, here, for a week and a half. Why so long? Why Rome? Does it even matter? The itch for travel that was more than an overnight book trip to one city or another was intense, as I remember a time pre-kid when we used to go places all of the time, just following the promise of cheap airfare passable-enough hotels to Vienna and Prague and Paris, just because. But we were scared of travelling with a three year-old because I don’t want to wreck the reputation of the one that’s been assigned to us, but you see, as normal as this makes him, he doesn’t always listen. Sometimes he yells? He’s not so good at airplanes. Or fancy restaurants. But I knew there would be a point where the inconveniences incurred by travelling with a preschooler would feel less of a burden than spending another minute taking a serious family vacation somewhere we’ve always wanted to study up close, to linger in long enough that it might almost feel routine after a few days, and here we are. At last.
My obsession with travel, and finding a way to do more of it again, is more of a desire to do things that take me out of my comfort zone. I like studying the way people walk or talk, or even take their coffee, in other places, and I like trying to figure out why. I like learning that everything I thought I knew about something (currently: pizza; soon, hopefully: everything else) was wrong. And I like being far enough away from home that even figuring out small things, like where we might buy some milk, or what all those buttons on the washing machine do (just cross your fingers we did it right, okay?), requires full concentration and at least one furrowed brow. Because while I’m having my mind bent by maps with streets that have no name, or streets that have names but aren’t on maps, things that plagued my brain earlier are neglected, and when revisited, have found a way of readjusting themselves into really no longer a big deal. How could they be, in the bigger realm of things? How could they be, in a place with “alleys” so stunning?
I’ve barely been here five days but it’s already clear that the pasta I made us before we left has at least two ingredients too many by Roman standards, although it is no less delicious with them. Roman food is simple, minimal yet a little loud; a plate arrives with something that looks so one-note, you think, “this? nah.” And then you try it and wonder why you’ve ever previously bothered making or eating anything so complicated. This, too, is a principle I’m eager to reabsorb, and I’m pretty stoked that I have 16, or 23, if you give gelato its respect due, meals left to still do this.
And now, you! Where are you going, if anywhere, this summer and what can’t you wait to eat when you get there?
Instagram: I am kind of an Instagram junkie, by the way, and if you’re interested, you can check out more of-the-moment impressions over here.
NYC Sur La Table Class: Next Monday, June 24th, I’ll be teaching a one-time-only cooking class at Sur La Table’s Hell’s Kitchen location from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Together, we’ll make four recipes from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.
Tickets can be purchased online. I’d so love it if we could finally hang out! [Updated to add this on 6/17 because my brain has been in una nuvola Roma [in a Roman cloud] the last few weeks and I’d all but forgotten to mention it.] [Updated again 6/18 to say that the tickets are sold out. So sorry for being a tease. I promise to look into more classes like this in the future.]
One year ago: Broccoli Parmesan Fritters
Two years ago: Dobos Torte
Three years ago: Lamb Chops with Pistachio Tapenade and Strawberry-Ricotta Graham Tartlets
Four years ago: Pickled Sugar Snap Peas and Springy Fluffy Marshmallows
Five years ago: Breakfast Apricot Crisp and Dead Simple Slaw
Six years ago: Spring Vegetable Stew and Gateau De Crepes
Bowties with Sugar Snaps, Ricotta and Lemon
As sugar snap season comes and goes all to quickly for my addicted tastes, consider this a template for any green vegetable — segments of asparagus, green beans, snow pea pods, or whole sweet peas — that you think might enjoy some lemon/ricotta/parmesan/salt/pepper treatment. Most of these other vegetables will benefit from 2 to 3 minutes boiling time, so add them earlier in the pasta cooking process.
For a more wintery riff on a lazy weeknight it’s-not-unhealthy-because-it’s-got-lotsa-green-stuff-in-it vegetable pasta dish, there’s this garlic-punched favorite.
Serves 4 to 6 (main course-style), up to 8 as a first course
Salt for pasta water
1 pound sugar snaps
1 pound dried pasta bowties
1/2 cup (about 1 ounce) finely grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese
Glug, then drizzle, of olive oil
Coarse or fine sea salt for sprinkling
Ground black pepper or red pepper flakes
Juice of 1 lemon, plus more to taste
Few leaves of mint, slivered
1 cup ricotta; use fresh if you can find or have motivation to make it
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil. While waiting, string sugar snaps and cut into 1/2-inch segments. Cook bowties for two minutes less than the suggested cooking time on the package, then add sugar snaps to pasta. Cook for one minute more. Reserve one cup pasta cooking water, then drain sugar snaps and bowties. Add them back to the empty pot with 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, grated cheese, a glug of olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook on high for one minute, tossing constantly. Add a splash more cooking water if pasta looks too dry. Turn heat off, dollop ricotta all over in large spoonfuls and, without stirring, tip pasta mixture into a wide serving bowl. (I do this because I love the idea of finding slightly unmixed pockets of ricotta.) Drizzle pasta with a small amount of olive oil, then squeeze lemon juice over the whole dish, sprinkle with mint, and finish with an extra sprinkling of parmesan. Serve quickly; eat happily.
(Lemon juice, rather rudely, discolors green vegetables so be sure to add this only right before serving, and when it will be eaten before anyone will care.)