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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Pasta Stra-sha-na-da

There's pasta primavera for the springtime, but what's an Italian to make in the summer? The answer is this: Pasta Stra-Sha-Na-Da.

As a kid, my mom always whipped up the same quick pasta dish in the summertime: Long fusilli pasta with a garlicky herb oil sauce. It was quick to throw together: she'd boil the water while my sister and I snipped the herbs from the back deck. We'd have dinner quick before getting back to the pool or playing with the neighbors or whatever else we did on long summer days when the sunlight filtered in long past bedtime. 

To be honest, I never really loved pasta stracchianata (taking a stab at the spelling here because I've never seen it written down). I guess the browned garlic was a little strong for my young tastebuds. It was just a means to an end: get the pasta down your throat and then you can get back to pool noodles instead of egg-and-flour ones. 

I hadn't thought about pasta stra-sha-na-da in a long time. But when my mom briefly mentioned she'd made it for dinner the other night before going on to tell me about the rest of her summery evening, I interrupted her mid-sentence: "Wait! Pasta Stra-sha-na-da. How do you make that?"

She was pleased I asked. Maybe she knew one day my taste buds would grow into it.

Basically, it's just an aglio e olio with a handful of herbs thrown in. But when you add some grilled chicken like I did, and use fresh pappardelle from the refrigerated part of the grocery store, it becomes so much more than the sum of it's parts. And you can still get it made quick so you can spend the rest of the evening gardening, reading, and having a cold beer on the deck.

Pasta Straccianata

2 TBS butter
2 TBS olive oil
6 gloves garlic, chopped
dash of red pepper flakes
lemon juice
Parmesan cheese
1 spring fresh oregano
about 6 basil leaves
a handful of fresh parsley
a few mint leaves
1 package fresh refrigerated pasta (tortellini works well too)

Get a pot of cold water boiling for the pasta. In the meantime, heat equal amounts of butter and olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat -- about two tablespoons each is good to start. When the butter melts, add the garlic and red pepper and turn down the heat to low. If you're worried about the garlic browning too much, turn it off entirely and just let the spicy garlic flavor infuse the oil.

Make a chiffonade of oregano, basil, parsley and a little mint. Chop coarsely. 

When the pasta is done, add to the oil and garlic. Turn the heat up to medium. If needed, add a little of the pasta water.

Sprinkle with the herbs and mix well. Off heat, add a little lemon juice and Parmesan cheese.

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