Pardon the lapse (uh...if any of you care). Most of you know that I'm also involved in the Boston theater community and I've been working this past week on The T Plays being produced by Mill 6. It's been a lot of fun, although it has eaten (hah...get it?) into my cooking (and blogging) time.
Often, when I'm working on a show or performing in one, I wind up eating quite late after getting home. Not always due to hunger, but sometimes it's just the act of cooking something that I look forward to as a way to wind down. More often than not, these late night suppers are some sort of pasta. I'm sure my resident nutrition expert, Deana, would frown upon this as an eating practice, but - hey - pasta is fast, easy to make with on-hand kitchen staples, and can have the culinary appeal of a big, warm welcome-home hug and a goodnight kiss.
Wanda and Giovanna Tornabene, the mother/daughter team behind Sicilian Home Cooking write of the Sicilian tradition of Spaghetti di Mezzanotte, or Midnight Spaghetti. A small group of friends gathering together after a night on the town and throwing together a late pasta party.
So...I blame the Sicilians.
The most common midnight spaghetti, they write, is prepared with garlic, olive oil, and hot peppers. I have my own that I turn to frequently, knowing that the ingredients are always on hand and the preparation, well practiced by now, requires zero thought. Linguine in a quick sauce of sauteed garlic, onion with broken up canned tomatoes and a can (this is ease-of-use time!) of chopped clams. Spaghetti with olive oil, hot peppers, anchovy paste, capers and bread crumbs. There's a great stove-top mac and cheese recipe in the ever handy Quick From Scratch Pasta book by Food and Wine I picked up at some used bookstore, but - lest you take me for a food snob - I will, given a very late return home - pop open a box of the unnaturally Black Light Poster orange Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. (What we like to call the 'emergency rations'...)
Johanne Killeen and George Germon, owners and operators of the excellent Al Forno restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island - and surely no strangers to coming home late, tired and hungry - have many quick easy pasta recipes in their book On Top of Spaghetti, including one named '4AM Spaghetti for One.' It consists simply of pasta tossed with olive oil that's been flavored with garlic, Espalette pepper or paprika, oregan, pepper and salt.
There is, of course, the late night pasta everyone has heard of - prepared for or by the queens of late nights - pasta putanesca. Yes "whore's pasta" (there...don't you feel dirty?) made up easily with pantry staples for that between-John or Giuseppe snack. Pasta in a sauce made up of tomatoes, anchovy fillets, olives, capers, garlic and hot peppers.
Basically, the goal is light - unless you can sleep late the next day...then, why not?...hit the cream sauce! And go with things you can have in your pantry: canned tomatoes, tuna, clams, olives, some ham or cheese from the refrigerator. Lemons and garlic are also essentials and you should try to always have some on hand. And if you have that window box of basil or parsley growing someplace indoors, the fresh herbs are always welcome.
It may be ill-advised to adopt this as a regular eating habit, although it has become one of mine. Allow me to point out that I do not weigh 300 pounds.