I think a lot about comfort, and comfort food, and self care, and everything in that soft little bubble. It’s sort of stupid – yet predictable – that the more you might need self-care, the more inclined you are to curl up into a small spiral and hide under a blanket for hours; the more you are needing of comforting food the less you have any energy to cook it; and the more you want general comfort at all the less you remember how on earth to find it. If, however, you’re bouncing around like the little ball in that atari-type brick-busting game that was on all computers in the 90s and feeling aimlessly ready for comfort food but don’t know what exactly: mate, I heartily recommend this spaghetti recipe that I’ve got for you. On that note, I’ve been watching a whole lot of the Netflix series Chef’s Table and aside from wanting to marry Chef Dominique Crenn soooo badly; just watching a beautifully made show about people passionately making beautiful food is super calming without having to actually do anything about it myself.
Watching TV to chill out and finding pasta to be comfort food: how revolutionary, I know. For someone who is pretty convinced that they are a complicated mystery woman I’m actually a pretty simple human. I guess it’s about catching myself in the act of doing really obvious things and then congratulating myself disproportionately for them?
Pasta – along with ice cream – is just straight up my favourite food, so I generally want it always, without any further existential context around it. This particular recipe for Very Simple Tomato Spaghetti uses a different method to how we’re usually told to cook the stuff – in an ocean of boiling salted water – instead you add a scant cup or two of water and let the pasta slowly absorb it in its entirety. I know! I grew up eating pasta cooked by microwaving it in a pyrex jug of water for 12 minutes so you should definitely trust me. My logic being, someone who has lived through such bad pasta like me would definitely know really, really good pasta too.
With this recipe, everything happens in the one pan. The starch from the pasta releases into the remaining liquid, and when you stir in some tomato paste it all becomes near-on preposterously creamy and rich. I know all the butter I hoof into it has some kind of effect as well, but the starch is important, honest. I came by this recipe in a roundabout way – I was thinking about cooking spaghetti in the same way that I’d make a risoni risotto, and then I came across a recipe on Food52 that confirmed the process for me; I had a tin of tomato paste that I’d bought because it was out-of-date stock and going super cheap and stuff that’s on special because it’s past its use-by date is aggressive me-bait; finally I required both lunch and comfort: thus this recipe was born.
i took a photography course one time last week and now i think I can get away with this
You add the butter at three stages: first to gently fry the uncooked sticks of spaghetti in, secondly to add flavour to the cooking liquid, and finally to rich up the tomato paste. As with all my recipes, I’m thoroughly desensitised to what constitutes “a lot” of butter, but this tastes like the exact right amount. The tomato sauce thickly coats each soft strand, and any fresh-from-the-tin acidity is softened completely. It’s rich, it’s luscious, it tastes like you spent hours reducing it down in a cast iron pan under the Tuscan sun using fresh tomatoes that a handsome, floppy haired man picked for you as a gift shortly before you ignore him for the rest of his life and he goes on to write bad poetry about it using the tomatoes misguidedly as a metaphor. It’s delicious.
very simple tomato spaghetti
a recipe by myself
- 50g butter
- 100g dried spaghetti
- one and a half cups recently boiled water
- one small tin of tomato paste; or around four tablespoons
- herbs and cheese to serve, if desired
You add butter at three different stages, so begin by slicing the butter into fairly even thirds. In a wide saucepan – ideally wide enough to hold the spaghetti lying down, although you can break the strands up if need be – gently heat the butter over a medium heat and add the dried spaghetti, stirring to coat the sticks in butter as they spin around the pan.
Add the water and the second measure of butter and turn the heat up high. Continue to stir occasionally as the water bubbles away, cooking the pasta as it reduces down. Taste a strand occasionally to test if it’s done. If need be, add a little more water.
Once the pasta is cooked and the water has reduced down to a few tablespoons – it will happen! – stir in the tomato paste and the final measure of butter. Stir over a lower heat until the butter has melted and it’s all thick and saucy. Remove from the heat and serve.
If you look up the word “comfort” in the dictionary, there is, by way of explanation, this picture of me sitting cross-legged on the floor of my best friend Kate’s house while she and my other best friend Kim are just out of frame, we are drinking wine and the fire is warming my back. The lights are low and there’s an extractor fan on making blissful white noise and a small seal pup of a dog is in front of me trying to kiss my nose. In lieu of being able to recreate this exact picture for yourself, pasta is a decent option. Especially when that pasta is so simple and takes hardly any time or ingredients and rewards you with a bowlful of creamily dense sauce coating each strand which you can strew with herbs and cheese such as thyme and feta if you like but it’s perfectly perfect on its own, looking like an upended can of spaghetti but tasting five zillion times superior. (Now, I used to bloody adore canned spaghetti but I am convinced that the recipe has been changed and it’s not what I used to be, I’m not just being snarky about it for the sake of it.)
And if you’re after more pasta-related comfort, maybe try my Garlic Miso Butter Risoni Risotto or Spaghetti with Chilli, Lemon, Capers and Olive Oil.
title via the immensely cool Elastica’s Car Song. If we all try really hard we might be as effortlessly cool as Justine Frischmann one day, but I doubt it.
Flume ft Tove Lo, Say It. It can’t be good for one to listen too much to Tove Lo’s song Habits too often so I’m glad this exists as well.
Look, I’ll tell you when I’m sick of listening to INXS’s song Disappear, okay? Till then just assume I’m listening to it on a constant loop.
next time: I have been craving cookies lately??? Perhaps something will come of this.