Well sometimes you have to look life in the eye and say 'Why Not?' A made T-shirts for S and me and herself in college. They all had personal sayings on them that represented each of us. S's said 'Who Cares?'. A's said 'Whatever'. Mine said 'Why Not?' All of these quotes still hold true for each of us. At least once a week I say either to myself or someone else...'Why Not?' It just makes you feel good to say it.
That was the motto when it came to this meal. Saturday afternoon we celebrated M's birthday at Steelhead Diner and T's kids got the cheesiest, most decadent-looking macaroni and cheese I have seen in a long time. Over the rim of my wine glass with my peripheral vision, I was jealously eyeing T's little girl casually scooping up forkfuls of cheese sauce. So I promptly marched myself home and pulled out the pasta.
As a little aside, I recently found myself in South Seattle, and had reason to direct my car to Big John's PFI...which in turn enhanced my pantry. A little jar of creme fraiche was my most exciting purchase, next to the bright green olives and fancy olive oil...ok, and poppy seeds, sesame seeds and canned tomatoes. I have been waiting for a special occasion to use the creme fraiche, and then remembered many-a-recipe in Amanda Hesser's book 'Cooking for Mr. Latte' that included this treat in a jar.
Besides being audibly pleasing, this recipe is incredibly quick to make. One point she makes is to make the pasta water salty, which is a direction I don't usually take. But when in Rome...and when using 'Why Not?' as the evening's motto, I went for it. I thoroughly sprinkled the water with salt to mimic the taste of the ocean. And wow. It makes a tremendous difference in taste. So try out the carefree attitude...and the recipe. You won't be sorry.
Rapini and Creamy Parmesan Fusilli
Adapted from Amanda Hesser's Cooking for Mr. Latte
Yields 2 servings
The original recipe calls for arugula as the bitter green. But I wanted to experiment with the rapini from last week's farmer's market excursion, which turned out to be a colorful and nicely bitter substitution to the recipe. But feel free to sub in any type of green you have on hand or want to try. I also swapped in fusilli pasta for the original linguine. But use whatever style pasta you wish. Whole wheat or gluten-free would work just fine if you are so inclined.
1 cup fusilli (or any type of pasta), dried
1/2 cup Parmesan
1 lemon, zested and juiced (separately)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bunch rapini, roughly chopped
4 Tbsp creme fraiche
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, adding a substantial amount of salt so the water is like ocean water. Pour the pasta and cook according to the container's instructions for al dente...mine took about 10 minutes. While this is going on, pull out a serving dish. Sprinkle the Parmesan, lemon zest and garlic into the serving dish. Using a small coffee or measuring cup, ladle out about 1/2 cup of the pasta water and set aside.
Once the pasta is cooked, strain and then pour into the serving bowl...reserve a little extra pasta water just in case you may need to freshen the sauce. Toss pasta with the Parmesan and zest. Add the reserved pasta water, creme fraiche, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Gradually add in the chopped rapini. If you need to add more creme fraiche, pasta water or Parmesan do so. Toss until every ingredient is fully incorporated. Indulge immediately with a smile, nice white wine and slice of bread.