Tuesday, August 24, 2004
SPAGHETTI NO KNIFE
I got this recipe from, of all places, Martha Stuart Living, and it’s one of my favorites for spaghetti—easy and fabulous. You just have to overlook its central conceit, which is that all of this can supposedly be accomplished without…you guessed it, a knife. Somehow I don’t think Martha tears apart whole tomatoes and blocks of mozzarella with her bare hands, and neither do I. Isn’t that why humanity invented knives in the first place? I suppose if one were marooned on a desert island with only a herd of cows, a pasta machine, a small garden, an olive oil press, and a bottle of red pepper flakes, it might be handy not to need a utensil to prepare this recipe. For everyday life, though, do yourself a favor and use the damn knife. But I keep the title, because I like it.
Anyway, this recipe contains no real surprises—all these ingredients are frequently found together, but they combine so perfectly here and with so many levels of flavor. The cheese gets all nice and melty, plus you can really taste the fresh oregano (an unsung hero of the herb world, in my opinion, totally overshadowed by the tasty but overexposed basil).
1 pound spaghetti
4 medium-to-large ripe tomatoes (about 2 pounds), cored and chopped into ½-inch pieces
½ cup coarsely chopped basil leaves
½ cup olive oil
¼ pound mozzarella, chopped into ½-inch pieces (use the best you can find, from the fancy cheese section of the grocery store—it’s worth it)
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped oregano leaves
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper
1. While bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil, mix the tomatoes, basil, mozzarella , oregano, and garlic and put it all in a large bowl. Add the olive oil, red pepper flakes, and generous amounts of salt and pepper to taste. (Martha would like to let you know that the sauce can be made 4-8 hours in advance if you leave out the mozzarella and let it, the sauce, stand at room temperature. I’ve never done this, but I’m sure it would be handy if you were having company, and it would also give the flavors even more time to blend.) Mix everything well.
2. When the water boils, add the spaghetti, cook it until al dente, drain it, and combine it with the tomato mixture (Martha butts in: if you made the sauce in advance, make sure to add the mozzarella at this point). Toss everything together and it's done.
Time: 30 minutes