“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II –William Shakespeare
When I think of my favorite Spring pasta recipe, I can’t help thinking about this quote from “Romeo and Juliet.” And hearing this, you probably can’t help thinking that I’ve finally gone completely ’round the bend. Other than the fact that pasta and Shakespeare’s young lovers are Italian, the connection between the two is not obvious. However, bear with me, and I will share with you a tale of “Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair (Pittsburgh), where we lay our scene.”
Growing up in an Italian family, pasta was always served with a rich red sauce or sometimes a creamy, cheesy Alfredo. Light and fresh were not things I associated with pasta at all. However, one evening, when I was a kid, I was invited to my friend, Abigail’s house for dinner where I experienced an entirely different kind of pasta dish. Her parents, let’s call them the Andersons, were professors and very sophisticated and urbane (they let their children have a small glass of wine with dinner). That evening they served spaghetti with raw tomatoes and herbs. It was so light and fresh. It was a revelation.
When I went home, I raved to my mother about how great it was and suggested that she try to make it. Since as a child, I didn’t know how to describe the flavor profile or ingredients accurately, my mom decided to call my friend’s mother and ask for the recipe. Strangely, when she spoke to her, explaining how much I enjoyed her spaghetti with fresh tomatoes and asking if she would mind providing the recipe, Mrs. Anderson told her that it was a private family dish and she did not wish to share it with others.
We were gobsmacked. I’d known that this woman was not a particularly warm person. She was always very proper and formal. When I called my friend Abby instead of Abigail, she would look down her half glasses at me scolding, “please do not use nicknames or in anyway shorten my daughter’s name.” Nevertheless, this reaction to our request seemed positively nutty. Given the nature of the dish, it is very unlikely that it was some heirloom recipe handed down from generation to generation.
Who knows why she didn’t want to tell us how to make her precious pasta? Maybe she didn’t like our family or more likely; she wanted to punish me for playing fast and loose with her daughter’s name. Although we continued to be friends, and we were not in a feud like the Capulets and the Montagues, this incident created an awkwardness between our families that never really dissipated.
Whatever the reason for her baffling response to our request, it turned out that we did not need to know the secret handshake to figure out how to duplicate the recipe. It’s actually very simple to make and to adapt to incorporate different ingredients you may have on hand. In fact, it is so easy and quick to make that this closely guarded “secret recipe” has become one of my go-to meals.
One of the things I like most about blogging is that it is a community of generous people who are willing and even excited to share their ideas with others. If we discover a great recipe or a DIY project, we want to let people know about it. We wish to help and support each other to live better lives. And so, in defiance of Mrs.”Anderson,” and with absolutely no Shakespearean drama involved, I am going to share the recipe I call Spaghetti Abby with all of you!
1 Box of dried spaghetti ( Since we consume a lot of pasta, I have been using a great tasting brand called Dreamfields that contains added inulin-a naturally occurring fiber that reduces the glycemic impact of the carbohydrate hit from pasta) However, other quality brands such as DeCecco or Barilla are good too.
1 28oz. can San Marzano diced tomatoes (In the summer when tomatoes are at their peak, I use fresh tomatoes from the farmer’s market, but at other times I use canned diced tomatoes.)
1 jar of sundried tomatoes in olive oil diced (This is my addition to the recipe. Sundried tomatoes supercharge the flavor of this dish.)
1 bunch of fresh basil diced
1 bunch of Italian parsley diced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 or 4 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (Oregano is one of those herbs that I think taste better dried than fresh.)
1/4 teaspoon cracked red pepper flakes
1/2 cup grated romano cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Boil pasta in a large pot of well-salted water until al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, drain both canned diced tomatoes and sundried tomatoes.
Dice the basil and parsley.
Peel and mince the garlic cloves.
Sautee the garlic, cracked red pepper, and the dried oregano in the olive oil on low heat until garlic is fragrant but not browned- 5 minutes or so.
Combine the cooked pasta, tomatoes, herbs, warmed olive oil, and romano cheese.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
May be served hot or at room temperature.
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