Scheduling lunch or coffee with friends during the week is a must for someone who works from home, not only does it save me from cooking and eating leftovers, it also provides my version of water cooler talk minus the awkwardness and abrupt Gotta-go’s. The fact is here are only so many conversations I could have with the cat at home. We chat about her love of tuna soup, how she can’t wait to rub herself against the bottom of daddy’s pants when he comes back from work, and her deep belief that she really is a queen.
Still, she is not a “co-worker” by any sense of the word. Her furry paws tend to step all over the keyboard and unintentionally sends emails that have not been edited. I can’t deny she is an eye candy when I do stay put to get things done for the day.
When I’m at home during lunch, I can’t possibly share her canned seafood delights and saltine-and-water “meals” can only get me so far in the day. I have been eating my fair share of the latter and it’s shamefully bad, that awful desktop diet. I’ve decided to put a stop to this and commit to cooking real food for myself. For lunch. Because I deserve it.
To motivate (and force) me to continue with this, I will be blogging the recipe of at least one meal I make during the week. Several friends are on the same boat, some subsisting on delivery pizza and Chinese takeout, so this series is for them, too. I hope this will inspire you all to take the plunge and be unafraid of making a little mess in the kitchen to prepare real home-cooked meals for one. It is worth the little time and effort put into them.
Here is last week’s easy lunch meal: Spaghetti Aglio e Olio. It’s a simple pasta recipe made with garlic, salt, olive oil, red pepper flakes and spaghetti noodles.
There’s no excuse not to have all the ingredients at hand. I made this for a get-together at the request of my best friend from high school and they all loved it. It’s one of the quickest dishes you can make and it’s a great alternative for tomato-based pasta. As you can tell, I’m a bit enthusiastic about this new endeavor that I took step-by-step photos to help even the beginner cook. The recipe was inspired by Lidia Bastianich’s new cookbook, Lidia’s Favorite Recipes: 100 Foolproof Italian Dishes, from Basic Sauces to Irresistible Entrees, which I found to be a great resource for easy Italian recipes.
- 3 oz of dry (uncooked) spaghetti noodles
- salt for pasta water and to taste
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 to 2 tsp of freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Fill half a 2-quart pot with water and salt and bring to boil over medium high heat. **As a general rule, water needs to be as salty as seawater when boiling pasta.
- Put the spaghetti noodles in the pot and once the water returns to a boil, start timer for 9 minutes. Check pasta and cook until there is no white dot in the middle when you tear a noodle.
- Drain water from the pasta and leave about a quarter of pasta water.
- Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat.
- Add garlic slices and cook until pale golden. Take off the heat and sprinkle red pepper flakes and salt to taste. Pour the remaining olive oil and the quarter cup of pasta water and put back on the heating element to boil.
- Transfer the drained pasta into the frying pan and mix together with the sauce. Cook for a minute before transferring into a bowl and tossing with grated cheese.
- Serve in a warm bowl.
- For this recipe, I start heating the olive oil after the pasta has been cooking for 5 minutes. That more or less guarantees that by the time I need the pasta water, it's also the same time that the spaghetti needs to be drained.