I’ve been having a bit of a love affair with pasta lately. I’d like to blame it on the weather and the slight chill in the air that has recently made wearing my skirts and dresses less pleasurable, but it was 85 degrees this weekend and I was still jonesing for a thick web of saucy twirlable carbohydrates.
There’s something undeniably homey and comforting about pasta – it’s sort of like the savory, main course version of a chocolate chip cookie. It was always a mainstay in my household growing up – probably because it was one of the few foods my entire family actually liked. We regularly enjoyed Sunday suppers of spaghetti and meatballs and those ridiculously buttery frozen garlic buns that I’m sure would make my heart stop if I attempted to eat one now. (Possibly from all the buttery bliss.)
Pasta makes me think of home – of testing noodles over the stovetop with my mom to see if they were done yet. (She always thought they were ready before I did.) It makes me think of my years spent as a competitive runner when it was a vital component of my diet and I would have a minor freak out if I didn’t consume a hefty bowl of marinara-drenched penne the night before a race. It also reminds me of specific meals – the epic four hour dinner at Babbo in NY when my family and I ordered the pasta tasting menu.
And five bottles of wine.
So it’s not the weather that’s making me reach for my bag of Trader Joe’s whole wheat spaghetti with such regularity lately. It’s my insatiable need for comfort at this specific moment in my life.
I’m kind of terrified that it’s almost 2011. The words “new year” have been sending me into a state of semi-panic. “What am I doing? Where am I going? What is the meaning of my life? And why can’t I stop buying dresses from Anthropologie?”
These thoughts have been tearing through my head, and I, in turn, have been tearing through the bowls of pasta as a result. Most recently, my fork has been twirling up spaghetti with red clam sauce – a recipe passed down from my mother who found it in her San Francisco a La Carte cookbook years ago.
When I eat it, I think of her. I think of home. And I feel better about not really knowing where I’m going or how I’m going to get there or why it’s so hard for me to keep my credit card in my wallet when I walk into an Anthropologie. Because even if the future is a swirling mess of uncertainty, I still have those precious memories from where I’ve been – and a big bowl of pasta to pair with them.
Spaghetti with Red Clam Sauce and Sautéed Shrimp
Adapted from San Francisco A La Carte
3/4 pound shelled and deveined shrimp
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 6 ½-ounce can chopped clams
¼ cup dry white wine, plus 2 tablespoons for sautéing the shrimp
1 14-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ pound whole wheat spaghetti
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
In a large pot, sauté two-thirds of the chopped garlic in 1 teaspoon butter, 1 teaspoon olive oil until golden. Drain the clam liquid from the clams, reserving clams. Add the liquid to the pan together with the wine. Boil for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato juice, parsley, basil, oregano, sugar, salt, and red pepper flakes. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Add clams and heat through.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to package instructions.
While pasta is cooking, heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the last teaspoons of butter and olive oil to coat the pan, and then toss in the shrimp and remaining garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, add the 2 tablespoons of wine, and sauté for three-four minutes or until just pink.
Combine shrimp and pasta with the sauce, tossing together until well-coated. Serve immediately.