Growing up I learned to believe that if food wasn’t exactly love, the two were at least suspiciously snuggly cousins. The men in my family cook and clean, and I believe a man’s place is in the kitchen. Here’s my grandfather making his famous fried chicken:
and my dad making milanesa (he’s also great with cookies):
Many years ago I was lured into a relationship by the dish I am about to share with you, now called of course, “Wooing Pasta.” It’s a simple dish, one even a journalist in his early twenties could pull off with aplomb, but it worked on me. There may have also been wine and music involved. This Valentine’s Day I’ll be watching from the comfort of the couch with a glass of wine in my hand while he makes it again. Nothing’s sexier than a man in the kitchen.
1 box penne pasta
6-8 fresh roma tomatoes
1 bunch fresh basil
2 cloves garlic
a meat of your choice–bacon or good italian sausage
optional zucchini (1 if using)
Oh, and you’re going to need a wok.
Now that we’re back in Brooklyn this shopping list is easy to fill–in Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens you are spoiled for choice when shopping for Italian food fixings. I hear the best mozzarella these days comes from the ordinary-looking Italian grocery store on Court and 3rd (No, I’m not talking about Caputo’s–cross the street). I hope you are able to get some good mozzarella and meats where you are.
The dish doesn’t take long but it is always nice to have something to eat while cooking (or watching someone else cook). This year I’m hoping for rice ball appetizers from Joe’s Perette.
Get your water ready to boil pasta (that is, salted, with olive oil to prevent sticking, and turned on high) and in the meantime meticulously prepare ingredients.
Impress the person you’re cooking for with your attention to detail by having them smell each ingredient as you prepare it. Also pour them a nice cocktail.
This one is cava with freshly squeezed blood orange juice, bitters, and a cherry.
Slowly fry your bacon or sausage in the wok while you’re busy slicing vegetables.
De-seed and chop the tomatoes, mash the garlic, and if you’re using it, slice the zucchini any way you like (I like rounds of zucchini myself).
If you’ve timed things well the pasta and the meat should be done around the same time. Drain the pasta and set aside. Remove the meat from the wok and cut it into bite-size pieces. Drain some of the resulting grease from the wok (not all of it–this is what makes the pasta great). Turn the heat back on for the wok, not too high, and cook the garlic for a minute or so. Now add the drained pasta to the wok and mix well. Add the zucchini if you’re using it, the tomatoes, and small pieces of mozzarella and mix with a good spatula or metal spoon. This step requires some fast mixing to keep everything from sticking to your hot wok.
Add a little cream, shred some parmesan cheese on top, and serve.
Just look at that glistening bowl of deliciousness:
Wooing Pasta is a heavy dish, so might want a salad to go with it:
This one has mixed farmers market greens, extra tomatoes from your pasta preparation, pine nuts, and a nice dollop of fresh mozzarella drizzled in olive oil, salt and pepper.
Now what are you waiting for? Go kiss the cook!