Today was not a day for Basics spaghetti. Don’t get me wrong – some days are absolutely that, I would be the first to recommend it – when the spaghetti gets buried, perfectly crushed under the weight of a rich tomato sauce and lashings of cheddar. But today was not that day.
Today was a day that started with hitting snooze for an hour. A whole hour. Followed by a day of work, which, granted, was not as bad as J’s work day, but still was hefty on the “suck” factor. In fact, because the day was what it was, I know that today is a day for linguine. De Cecco linguine. Tossed about in a light, but buttery sauce, made with shallots, garlic, lifted by parsley, before being drenched in a pale, dry rose, peppered with bright, cherry tomatoes and finally assaulted by king prawns. Maybe even some other crustaceans and other creatures of the deep. It’s that kind of day.
All of which will be served with the aforementioned wine. Lots of it. And hopefully life will feel better again.
Cooking can magically do that, I find. It’s meditative, fun, and (sometimes) quite challenging, and – most importantly of all – you get treats along the way. Also, I exert what J has started referring to as “The Chef’s Tithe”, which is basically a very gentlemanly way of saying I get to eat everything along the way, and most likely get a bigger portion when it’s done. As I said, cooking is awesome.
For the magic “day improving” pasta, you need a few key ingredients:
Ooh, it makes me happier just looking at that list. You also need garlic, shallots, some kind of herb (I’d recommend parsley or basil), a whisk and, of course, prawns and other creatures. I’d opt for raw prawns, if I were you – damn easy to tell when they’re done and damn tasty when freshly cooked.
So get the water boiling for your linguine – the sauce will take about as long as the pasta takes to cook. Heat up your pan and when hot, chuck in some olive oil, followed by the cherry toms. The trick is to get them to pop and burst out of their skins (this will be a silky sauce – sans skins – so remove them as you go). Let the toms heat up and you’ll notice the tell-tale seams starting to appear. Leave them to it and make sure you have the wine and butter to hand. Throw in some finely diced garlic and shallots and let them soften – keep an eye on them, you don’t want them to brown, just soften. (Adding a pinch of salt will help the softening process immeasurably.)
While you’re stirring and watching (also known as “cooking”) lift out the skins – with some kind of implement, not your fingers, please. Might require a bit of teasing away from the tomato, but it will be worth it, I promise.
Pour in some wine – enjoy the hiss – and then immediately add a few nobs of butter to the pan and whisk it enthusiastically to create a kind of emulsion. Go ahead – slide some more butter in. You only live once. Your sauce will now be taking shape – have a little taste and add seasoning (e.g. good quality salt, pepper – even a few chilli flakes if you like the heat).
When it tastes right to you – and by “right” I mean tomatoe-y and buttery and wine-y and delicious – add your seafood and herbs. Parsley or basil would both work really well here. I like to add raw prawns so the minute they turned pink – ping! – supper’s ready. All that’s left is to add the cooked linguine, with a splash of the cooking water, gave it a good old toss and VOILA! But you could also add clams or mussels.
If you’re using our shellfishy friends, add them to the pan before the prawns. Once they’re in, give it a nice toss, then put the lid on to encourage them to open up and cook. Remember – wash them thoroughly first and discard any that are open.
Give the pan a shake from time to time (clams and mussels will only take a few minutes to cook), then take the lid off, throw in the prawns and follow the above.
A little squeeze of lemon would be nice in this too – give it a bit of a lift.
Serve with white or rose wine (depending on what you opted for in the dish – personally, my Chef’s Tithe applies to the wine, too – meaning that the original bottle doesn’t always make it to the table. For this reason, I recommend always having a second bottle waiting in the wings) and pleasant company.
Simple! And I’m already happier just writing about it – now, to eat it.
Header image © junpinson/iStock/Thinkstock