Today my third cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Keepers, comes out and thank goodness, because it’s been impossibly hard to keep it from you this long.
It feels downright unfair that I figured out how to make the best molasses cookie — thick, tender, but also one-bowl, no hand-mixer required, the kind that makes your whole home smell like the holidays — and you’re only finding out about it today. My favorite pot roast is in there; sometimes I add rice shortly before it’s done for a truly one-pot meal-of-a-braise that feels perfect for this cold week. There’s a warm hoagie that’s practically a vegetarian cheesesteak. The most perfect chocolate chip cookie I could possibly dream up is there (it has salted walnut brittle inside). A deep dish, actual doorstop of a broccoli cheddar quiche that serves a crowd and an egg salad, just for us. The easiest three-layer chocolate party cake that could ever exist is filled with a salt-flecked milk chocolate buttercream and it’s designed to fit in the bottom of a shopping bag so you can take it everywhere with you. The actual craziest thing I’ve suggested you do with cabbage (salt, vinegar, and char it), might lead to the craziest thing you do with cabbage (eat it from the pan, standing up). There are cream cheese and jam challah buns that make me think of my dad and there’s a pound cake that I hope could be worth the cover price alone.
They’re all, to me, keepers — the kind of recipes that you make and know instantly that you’ll want them to be part of your repertoires forever. For 17 years on this site, I’ve paid close attention to what happens when we are in kitchen and I try to apply everything I’ve learned about how to make shopping easier, cooking more doable and enjoyable, and the outcomes more reliably delicious. Because if you hate making the recipe — if the process was persnickety and you dirtied every bowl in your kitchen — it barely matters if the result was otherworldly, you’re going to avoid it. And I want these to be recipes you, above all, love to make.
And then there’s the Green Angel Hair with Garlic Butter, the swirly, verdantly tangled cover dish, which came out a whim of a party snack. A few New Year’s Eves ago, I set out to make my case for the return of whole-roasted heads of garlic, except, instead of roasting the garlic with a drizzle of olive oil, I used a stick of butter (“Whoops!”), roasted it for the better part of an hour, and blended it smooth, and we smeared it on pieces of bread and, did you know, I also made a cheese soufflé that night? And beef Wellington? (The theme was old-school decadence.) Neither of those dishes made the impression that the roasted garlic butter did.
But what if you want weekday garlic butter confit in your life? And your life doesn’t have crostini and sparkly cocktails on a Tuesday, much as that needs correction? Well, then, you should take this garlic butter and blend it with a bag of spinach until the garlic butter is brilliantly green, and toss it with spaghetti finished with black pepper and sharp Pecorino cheese for not only one of the best things I’ve ever made for dinner, but also the recipe I expect you to look at the least: make it once, memorize it forever.
The Smitten Kitchen Keepers Book Tour: It begins this evening. I’ll be signing books at Fish’s Eddy in Manhattan from 5-7pm and I hope to see you there. (There will be cookies! And fizzy drinks!) Every other event — Atlanta on Thursday! Union Square Greenmarket this Saturday! Toronto next week! and so, so much more! — is listed on the Events page, and more are added every week so keep your eyes peeled for upcoming announcements of New Jersey and Vancouver events. I hope to see you on tour! I hope we can finally hang out.
Green Angel Hair with Garlic Butter
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces or 115 grams) salted or unsalted butter, sliced into a few pieces
- 1 large head garlic, halved crosswise
- Kosher salt
- 5 ounces (140 grams) baby spinach
- 1 pound (455 grams) thin spaghetti such as angel hair or capellini
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Pecorino romano, to finish
- Heat oven to 375°F (190°C).
- I know you’re going to balk over the angel hair, a most unpopular pasta shape, and though it’s not required here, it’s made for this—a thin sauce that clings easily to fine strands.
- You can replace half the butter (4 tablespoons, or 55 grams) with olive oil, if you wish. You can bump up the greens to 8 ounces if you like it even greener, but make sure the dish is seasoned extra well to adjust.
Arrange the butter slices across the bottom of a small (2-cup) baking dish. Sprinkle with salt: ¼ teaspoon if using salted butter, and ½ teaspoon if unsalted. Place the garlic halves, cut side down, over the butter and salt. Cover the dish tightly with foil, and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the garlic is absolutely soft when poked with a knife and golden brown along the cut side. Carefully remove the foil. Empty the garlic cloves into the melted butter. I do this by lifting the peels out of the butter with tongs, allowing most cloves to fall out, and using the tip of a knife to free the cloves that don’t. Scrape any browned bits from the sides of the baking vessel into the butter.
Meanwhile, cook your pasta in well-salted water until 1 to 2 minutes shy of done. Before you drain it, ladle 1 cup pasta water into a cup, and set it aside. Hang on to the pot you cooked the pasta in.
Place the spinach in a blender or food-processor bowl, and pour the garlic butter over it, scraping out any butter left behind. Add another ¾ teaspoon salt and several grinds of black pepper, and/or a couple pinches of red-pepper flakes, and blend the mixture until totally smooth. If it’s not blending, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of reserved pasta water to help it along. Taste for seasoning, and add more if needed.
Pour the spinach sauce into the empty spaghetti pot, and add the drained pasta and a splash of pasta water. Cook over medium-high heat, tossing constantly, for 2 minutes, until the sauce thickens and coats the spaghetti. If the pasta sticks to the bottom of the pot, add more reserved pasta water in splashes to get it moving. Tip the pasta into a serving bowl, finish with more salt and pepper and freshly grated cheese, and hurry—it disappears fast.
Note: Smitten Kitchen Keepers cookbook images — the cover, first collage of book recipes, and the top photo in this post — have been styled by Barrett Washburne. (Photographed by me, Deb Perelman, as are all of the photos on the site and in my books.)