Happy to have a recipe published in the new local paper, The Provincetown independent.
For a time in the early to mid nineties, I lived in San Diego—in the Windnsea neighborhood in La Jolla, to be precise. I knew nothing about San Diego, but took a chance and moved to there to teach fiction writing at the university. I landed in a remarkably open, multicultural community (my main motivation to go) and found a bevy of smart, fun, and generous friends. They were a mix of hardcore intellectuals, writers, and surfers. I went to many parties and gave a few myself. At one, as the music cooled and the crowd of twenty or so got their second wind, my friend Pasquale Verdicchio, a poet from Naples, told us it was time for midnight pasta. Off we trooped into the kitchen, where I got a big pot of spaghetti going. Pasquale sliced up garlic, which he threw onto a warming pan of oil, searing them to a golden crispy almost-brown. He skillfully, theatrically, mixed the garlicky oil into the al dente spaghetti. A little parsley, some salt, and lots of red pepper flakes, and there we had it: midnight pasta.
I have returned to the dish many times, sometimes using angel hair pasta, sometimes linguini, if that is all I find in the house. These days, though, I mostly eat alone, accompanied by two sleepy cats and Netflix. The dish is easy to adjust to single portions. Just measure out the amount of pasta you’ll eat and reduce the ingredients accordingly. You will have enough for a bowl, though you might want to cut a slice of bread to run around the dish to sop up lingering sauce.
Although I think few things go together so well as garlic, olive oil, and red pepper, you can be endlessly creative with this dish. Go ahead, zest some lemon into the bowl, add add baby spinach or arugula, with maybe a touch of nutmeg. Or, add chunks of goat cheese and chopped toasted walnuts, swap out the garlic for torn wedges of mandarin orange, dribble a touch of balsamic vinegar, and grind black peppercorn over the dish for bite. Grated parmesan is an easy addition. Another option is to sauté some chopped tomato, red bell pepper, and broccoli rabe with the garlic and red pepper flakes, topping the dish off with a scattering of toasted pine nuts. But at midnight, you just might want to keep it simple.
Midnight Pasta Recipe
I pound spaghetti
Several cloves of garlic, thinly sliced, or minced
Olive oil, about a ½ cup
¼ cup of pasta water
Red pepper flakes
Salt to taste
Fresh Parsley, (or basil if in season)
¼ cup grated parmesan (optional)
Boil the water for the pasta. Salt it like Ina Garten tells us, with a good amount, to mimic the sea.
Add the spaghetti. A pasta maker once told me that no pasta needs more than eight minutes in the pot. I still test the noodles by biting them, looking for the white raw interior to vanish.
Remember to save a quarter cup of the pasta water before draining the pasta.
While the pasta is getting ready, heat the oil in a large saucepan, and saute the garlic, being careful not to burn it. It should take just a few seconds to turn a beautiful golden bronze.
Add some of the saved pasta water.
Add the red pepper to the oil, as much as you and your guests prefer.
Drain the spaghetti and add it to the pan, mixing gently.
If using, add the Parmesan.
Add salt to taste.
Tear parsley into small pieces and sprinkle if you like.
Originally published in The Provincetown Independent, February 27, 2020