Cavatappi with Anchovies, Garlic, and Red Peppers

Following a recipe can sometimes feel like you’re on a mad voyage with a crazed captain determined to set your kitchen ablaze in a quest to capture that ephemeral, culinary white whale.

“Are you out of your mind?” I wanted to yell at Melissa Clark, whose Pasta with Caramelized Peppers and Anchovies inspired this particular dinner. “Put the anchovies in the hot oil first? Before the peppers?! And use a whole jar?” The spatter coated not just the whole pan, but the tea kettle next to it and my entire stove top. I was ready to jump overboard. But the resulting dinner had Craig aflutter, moaning “Oh my God” upon taking the first bite. As a person who makes pasta on a biweekly basis (in the two-times-a-week sense), this may be the most potently flavorful pasta I’ve ever drummed up in my kitchen.

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Anytime Pasta with Scallions, Peas, and Parmesan

Pour one out, if you will, for the imported Italian bowl that you see above: I bought it on eBay a few years ago, it was my pride and joy, and yesterday — after doing the dishes — I was putting ramekins away high up in a cabinet and one of them fell and broke my most treasured kitchen possession. There are now two broken off pieces and my friend Rebecca gave me a Kintsugi kit, but it’ll never be the same.

Thankfully, its last night on this earth was a happy one (and, for the record, it has a twin in case you see the bowl again!). Happy because of this pasta which I made using frozen peas, a little butter, scallions, and lots of Parmesan. These are all things you should have in your fridge and freezer anyway: frozen peas (they’re better than fresh peas!), Parmesan cheese (guilty secret: I buy the good stuff, but already grated… don’t @ me), butter (I’m going through a Kerrygold phase), and scallions, which are excellent on eggs, in salads, and, as you’re about to see, pasta.

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Fun with Garnishes

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Something that annoys me about the food world is the notion of a dish or an ingredient being dated. “Sun-dried tomatoes are so 1986,” some pretentious food person might say. Really? Well I really love them, especially in Cavatappi with Sun-Dried Tomatoes which doesn’t taste like 1986 to me, it just tastes good. And I suppose there’s a similar notion that garnishes–big gestural ones–are passé. It’s a shame, though, because–as I’ve discovered recently–garnishes can be a lot of fun, especially when they enhance whatever dish you’re serving. Let me show you what I mean.

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The Easiest Pasta Dinner in the World

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There are certain readers of my blog–and I know they exist, I’ve met them in real life–who see the food I make as aspirational. Instead of thinking, “Oooh, that’s easy, I can make that” (as many of you think when you read my posts), they think, “Oooh, that looks tasty, I wonder if someone will make that for me?”

To those readers, then, who think these recipes are outside of your reach (and, again, I acknowledge that I’m not describing most of you) I have a recipe for you. It’s Penne with Brown Butter, Nutmeg and Parmesan and I used to write about it all the time on the blog when I was a bachelor; it’s a dinner you can whip up easily for yourself after coming home from work. All you need is a pot, a pan, a box of penne, a stick (or less) of butter, whole nutmeg (so much better than the pre-ground stuff), a hunk of Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. This is comfort food with a sophisticated flair.

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