FEASTS & FANCIES: Spaghetti with Artichokes – my favourite comfort food.

There is something about pasta that warms the cockles of my heart.  I reach out for pasta the way some people reach out for chocolate or a glass of wine.  I eat pasta when I’m feeling sad or vulnerable, when I am dissatisfied with my life, when I miss my grandmother telling me that everything will be all right.  When I need a hug at cellular level.  I also make pasta when I want to celebrate: the end of a translation, the beginning of a new writing project, the joy of treasured friends at our table; or to celebrate for the sake of celebrating.  Pasta to me is synonymous with abundance, with pleasure, with hospitality.  It’s the culinary equivalent of the opening bars of Claudio Monteverdi’s Orfeo.

As you know, there are dozens of varieties of pasta.  It comes in all shapes and sizes, different kinds suitable for different sauces or accompaniments.  I am no connaisseur.  For your pasta guide, refer to my betters, experts like Giorgio Locatelli and Stanley Tucci.  My choices are guided entirely by my personal preference and my whim.  When it comes to food, I believe in freedom and reject all convention.  I drink red wine even if I’m having fish, and add milk into my cup of Earl Grey tea.  I snack on slices of apple with peanut butter and brazenly order a cup of plain hot water in restaurants.  

If in doubt, my go-to pasta is spaghettiI enjoy winding them (sorry, I can’t bring myself to use spaghetti as a singular), around my fork on the side of my plate, taking care to avoid long bits dangling.  I like their silkiness, their honest taste of grain.  Whether it was Marco Polo who taught the Chinese about noodles or – most likely – brought them back to Venice from Cathay, I think a monument should be erected to the human who invented them.

Spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce (watch this space), with tuna, with vegetables, or simply with a drizzling of truffle oil and a dusting of parmigiano… it’s important, if you can, to buy good quality pasta.  No sauce, however tasty, can redeem flavourless, bland, limp, overprocessed pasta.  It has to be strong enough to hold its own with whatever you add to it.

My favourite spaghetti dish is one I often make myself either when Howard is out, or when he makes his own plans for a meal.  He doesn’t care for it.  For one thing, he fails to appreciate my all-time favourite vegetable and empress of all thistles: the globe artichoke.  Moreover, he isn’t very keen on chilies.  So, when he is out at a jazz jam session, or making himself my all-time hated food, steak, I spoil myself with this scrumptuous composition.   

Spaghetti with Artichokes

Your treats for one serving:

(all measurements are approximate, see https://scribedoll.com/2023/01/15/new-blog-feasts-fancies/

❧  Spaghetti made from hard durum wheat semolina 

❧ 1 tin of artichoke hearts in brine

❧ 3 sun-dried tomatoes

❧ 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves

❧ Your favourite olives

❧ Pine nuts

❧ Fresh oregano

❧ Chili flakes

❧ Dried capers

❧ Parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated

❧ Extra-virgin olive oil

❧ Salt, black pepper

❧ Water for boiling the pasta

Start by pouring some boiling water over the sun-dried tomatoes and letting them soak for twenty minutes or so, then slice them into small slivers.

Cut each tinned artichoke heart into four.

Wash the fresh oregano and tear the leaves off the stem.

Chop or crush the garlic. 

Fry the artichokes in the olive oil on a gentle heat, so that they brown without spitting scalding drops of oil and moisture at you.  You don’t want food to swear at you while you’re cooking it.  Once they have turned golden, add the garlic, sundried tomatoes, olives, capers, chili flakes, capers, oregano leaves, and, a couple of minutes later, the pine nuts.  Season to taste. 

Bring to boil a copious amount of water (with however much salt you deem proper) in a large pan (spaghetti mustn’t be crammed together – each spaghetto needs room to express itself).  Ease the spaghetti into the boiling water gently and stir with a long-handled, two-pronged fork, separating the pasta so it doesn’t clump together.

While waiting for the pasta to reach its optimum cooking point, grate a small mound of parmigiano.  

Drain the pasta, slide it onto a plate and spoon artichokes & co. over it.  At this stage, I like to add a dash of cold olive oil, just because I like the taste.  Add the grated parmigiano.

Take a few seconds to enjoy the sight of this bounty, smell its inviting fragrance, then tease your fork into a couple of spaghetti, wind them around it, spear a piece of artichoke and and an olive, and enjoy that first mouthful, which will be unique, as will be all the ones that follow.  Taste the discreet tanginess of the tomato, the humorous sharpness of the garlic, the eartly saltiness of the olives, the cheekiness of the capers.  Chew the pine nuts and think of the umbrella pines lining the cobbled roads that lead to and from Rome. Inhale the scent of the oregano and picture yourself on a hillside bathed in afternoon sunshine, listening to cicadas.

Then let me know how you like it.  And if you do like it, please share this post.

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11 Responses to FEASTS & FANCIES: Spaghetti with Artichokes – my favourite comfort food.

  1. Oh, yum. I imagine this topping would be divine over rice, too, for those of us who can’t eat wheat. I can also imagine these ingredients whirred into an artichoke pesto. How delectable!

  2. Valeria says:

    This sounds scrumptious, Katia!

  3. Sue says:

    Would never eat this sorry, as I do not like artichokes ( but love the idea of them attacking). Beautifully written and if I had been at your table I would have heroically tried to eat it enthusiastically.

  4. Rob says:

    This sounds absolutely delicious! Thank you for sharing the recipe, Katia – I’ll definitely be trying it soon (though probably on a night that Amy is out, as she doesn’t care for capers or artichoke, unfortunately!)

  5. Anna says:

    Oh spaghetti!! I like it too. It’s one of my go-to dishes as well. You write that you are no connaisseur. Neither am I)) But I’m more of a “no connaisseur” as compared with you Katya) Frankly speaking, I’m not so good at cooking. But pasta is one of my favourites. When I was in Italy last summer, I ate a lot of pasta dishes. My son-in-law’s mother (they are Italians) cooked pasta EVERY DAY, and it was always the first course which was followed by others) You know what? Every day it was something different, with different sauces, vegetables or other accompaniments. And wine at every meal!
    Well… I have pelmeni for today’s dinner. Now I think I’d better go and cook spaghetti. ‘Cause your story and the pictures made my mouth water))
    Thank you for this post!!

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