We sat on the front porch of his house, with bowls of cheese tortellini and broccoli in our laps, talking about our sun signs. It was late spring. The tall grass the boys never cut swayed in the breeze. The tire swing on the giant oak tree spun gently, house cats warily slinking around roots and into the giant shade the house drew over the yard; tabbies scouring for crickets and mice. The paint on the house peeled back, revealing plain, weather-worn cedar. The beginnings of our friendship and bond started over pasta, eaten outdoors always. I wasn’t completely oblivious to the spark happening between us, the beginning strokes of a painting not quite fully realized. But his roommates always knew not to interrupt our dinners sitting out there together.
My aunt taught me that trick, with pasta. Lemon, butter, parmesan, cracked black pepper, cheese tortellini, steamed broccoli, salt. We used to make dinners together on my breaks back from college. Usually something simple, eaten while watching a rom-com at her beach house, the windows open so you could hear the waves, smell the salt. She taught me that simple meals made with great ingredients can be soulful. That they can be an unfussy backdrop for great conversation.
I’d never made a man I wasn’t related to dinner before I started making them for Logan. Those porch dinners constituted a step into unknown territory: an experiment in someone else’s kitchen (I didn’t have one at the time); testing the “food is the way to a mans heart” principle. I didn’t have a lot of tools, just a bit of creativity and basic ingredients. But it didn’t matter. What mattered was that sun setting over the grotto of trees across the street, the pasta in our mouths, laughing together.
Just like back then, lovingly prepared, simple meals are the bed-rock of our daily lives together. Something green is almost always involved. We spring for brown rice pasta most of the time now, as opposed to those good ol’ days when I bought those cute, dry semolina tortellinis. Jovial is my favorite gluten free (and einkorn) pasta brand, hands down. They’re a small, family company; I really feel that in their products. It’s about the beauty of the food, respecting the ingredients, putting love into the work. And can I just TELL YOU about their tagliatelle?! It’s the best gluten free pasta I’ve ever had in my life. I don’t make statements like that lightly. The cooked pasta is supple, nutty, and toothsome, like true Italian varieties. It’s the perfect backdrop for precious, new asparagus stalks.
Thus I set a pot of salted water on the boil, gather my tagliatelle nests, a clutch of sweet asparagus stalks, a deeply red handful of sun dried tomatoes, and some fat garlic cloves and set to work.
- 1 package of Jovial brown rice tagliatelle (9 oz)
- water + salt + 1 tbsp olive oil, to cook the pasta
- 4 tablespoons ghee
- 5-8 garlic cloves
- 1 lb fresh asparagus stalks
- ⅛ cup water or white wine
- ¼ cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped roughly
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- coarse sea salt
- Set a pot of salted water with a splash of olive oil on high heat (I like it salty like the sea).
- Once the pot is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and add the pasta, stir once, and cook to desired doneness. I like mine just slightly al dente, so I cooked for around 8 minutes. I taste and check for doneness every couple of minutes as I go, though!
- Drain and rinse in cold water before adding a drizzle of olive oil and tossing once to keep the pasta from sticking together.
- Heat a skillet over medium high heat.
- While the skillet is heating, trim the ends of your asparagus (the cut side). Smash your garlic cloves with the flat side of a chef's knife.
- Melt ½ tablespoon ghee in the pan.
- Once the pan is good and hot (water sizzles and spurts when you add a drop to the pan) add the smashed garlic and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cloves are beginning to brown and caramelize. Remove the garlic from the pan and set aside in a small bowl.
- Add the whole asparagus stalks to the pan and add ⅛ cup water or white wine, then cover. Steam until all of the liquid has cooked off, then cook further adding another ½ tablespoon ghee. Fry uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the asparagus just begins to soften, browning slightly. Cut off the heat and remove from the pan, setting aside with with the garlic.
- Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons ghee and add to a small mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice to the ghee and stir to combine.
- Add the pasta, asparagus, smashed garlic, and sundried tomatoes back to your skillet and toss with the ghee and lemon sauce. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt, to taste. Enjoy!
Jovial is also offering a getaway giveaway right now (I entered!). The winner and a guest will get a flight and free stay and food at an 18th Century Villa that Jovial’s owner, Carla, rents out for the trip. She leads 3 cooking classes as part of the getaway. You can choose between the gluten free getaway and the cooking with einkorn getaway (how awesome is that?!). The gluten free one means that every single thing at the villa will be all homemade gluten free foods! The owner, Carla adjusts all recipes to fit people’s allergies, so guests never have to worry about what they are eating. Find info, and enter here! The contest is running until June 2015.