Pasta Alla Puttanesca

This whole thing is really densely flavorful without being heavy, which is awesome.

Ingredients:

  • pasta
  • water
  • olive oil
  • minced garlic *
  • sundried tomatoes (a whole bag of the ones you can find in the produce section as, like, salad toppers)
  • can of black olives – preferably sliced into rings
  • capers

I had E doing all the slicing of the sundried tomatoes while I did other stuff, but if you don’t have an assistant, probably do that first.

Start the pasta water!

Start heating some olive oil in a large skillet on medium – I had some leftover sausage grease, but not quite enough. Add minced garlic and let that go for a minute or two while you do other complicated things like getting the goddamn caper jar open and opening and draining the can of olives. Add the capers! You want them in first because the goal for them is ‘crispy.’ Which, whatever, who cares if they actually get there? It’s delicious anyway.

The pasta water should go off at some point, so add your pasta to that.

After you add the pasta to the water, add the olives and sundried tomatoes to your skillet. Add some more olive oil if you need it: you don’t want it, like, dripping oil, but oil is the transfer medium to make everything taste like everything else and also transfer flavor to the pasta, so definitely make sure it’s some kind of liquid presence.

When the pasta is al dente, add to the sauce and serve.

*I am not even going to pretend that my garlic comes from anywhere but a jar. Yours should, too, if you cook more than once a week, because it reduces a ton of effort and makes it easy to add flavor.

Batch Cooking Round 2

For the second round of batch cooking with E, we made a double batch of Chicken Tortilla Soup, pasta alla puttanesca – very similar to this only made in a real kitchen – and a lazy version of this slow cooker pear and sausage stuffing. I am still taking single-serve containers of the stuffing for lunches over a week later, and it’s so delicious I might just eat it forever.

I’d made the chicken for the soup the night before, because it does a lot better if it can soak in the seasoning and we had plans for the slow cooker, so that was easy to set up and dump all the other ingredients into. Then we started on the stuffing, because that needed four hours – and that meant I could use the pan from the sausage to make the puttanesca for us to have for lunch. Planning!

I think normally we’d want to just make stuff for the week so it feels like a longer-term investment of energy, but pasta doesn’t store that well and T hates most of what’s in puttanesca, so having someone else to feed made a good excuse to make it, and then we got to eat and chill on our computers while we waiting for the stuffing to be done.

Loaded Sweet Potatoes

The whole idea of sweet potatoes with brown sugar on was deeply weird to me a few years ago.

Ingredients:

  • big can sweet potatoes
  • nutmeg
  • cinnamon
  • brown sugar
  • marshmallows

Start your oven preheating to 350°F, then drain your can of sweet potatoes. Chuck them in a large casserole dish, then mix with the cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar in whatever quantity make you happy. Top with several handfuls of marshmallows, then stick in the oven for like 40 minutes or whatever: nothing needs to be cooked, really, but you want the marshmallows to be golden brown on top.

Everything now tastes like candy and technically has nutritional value.

Rosemary Salt Potatoes

When I got home from Russia, I was overjoyed to be reunited with my spice cupboard. Sad to leave Russia, happy to see loved ones, but: spice cupboard. I celebrated by making something simple but with one of my favorite seasonings.

Ingredients:

  • potatoes
  • rosemary
  • salt
  • olive oil

Add some oil to a pan and crush some dried rosemary to go in it – it’ll still be pretty chunky bits of rosemary, but who cares? Rosemary is delicious and smells amazing.

Start the oven preheating to 425°F and start cutting up potatoes. Toss them in the oil. Right before you stick it in the oven, sprinkle some salt over it: sea salt is preferred, because the bigger granules won’t all dissolve while cooking and it matches the rosemary better so you get the little bursts of flavor from biting down on both things. Bake for an hour and fifteen minutes, devour while catching up on missed Hannibal episodes.

Spicy Cheese Bread

There’s a place in town that does the most amazing spicy cheese bread. If you get to the Farmer’s Market at the right time, you can get it still warm and then walk around the rest of the square while devouring it in chunks. It’s kind of locally famous, and absolutely deserves that fame. But getting it involves going all the way downtown and having cash at ass o’clock in the morning, so I wanted to come up with some kind of facsimile.

Ingredients:

  • frozen bread dough
  • cheddar cheese
  • red chili pepper flakes

Thaw the bread dough and roll it out, then cover it in shredded cheese. Just cover it. Fold it over and roll it again, then add more cheese – plus red pepper. Add cheese until the dough can’t hold more cheese, then shape the loaf however – braid it, shove it in a loaf pan, cut it into sixths and make balls to bake them into buns. Put more cheese on top. Let that rise for twenty minutes or half an hour, then bake at 350°F for 22-25 minutes.

Eat it still warm if at all possible, either alone or with butter. Try not to cry at the perfect combination of cheese and chili pepper.